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Instant irresistibility: How to make small talk and advanced social skills

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I did not want to hit on this woman.

But my friend noticed her checking me out, so he glanced at me and raised his eyebrows. I looked at him, silently saying, “Really? Do I have to?” He just tilted his head and raised his eyebrows even higher. Nothing more needed to be said — every guy knows what that look means. We can’t back down from a challenge in front of our friends, so I sighed and walked over to her.

Keep in mind this woman was a lot older than me, not really my type, and I hate approaching at bars. But among men, pride comes first. Plus, she seemed nice.

Ramit: “Hi, I’m Ramit.”
Woman: “Hi, I’m (whatever).
Ramit: “You look like a vodka soda kind of girl” (I know, I know. I don’t know where this horrific line came from)
Woman: “NO!!”

I was a little surprised at how aggressively she said no, so I decided to have some fun.

Ramit: “Aw come on, I’ve been right 100/100 times for the last 5 years. How are you gonna break my streak like that?”
Woman: “I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

Teaches social skills. Hits on recovering alcoholic at bar.

Shortest bar conversation ever. Possibly the worst. But also hilarious.

On Friday, I asked you to talk to ONE random person and write down what happened. Over 800 of you left comments sharing your hilarious, inspiring, and sometimes horrific stories. If you’re on my email list, you got a special email with my 10 favorite comments yesterday.

How to make small talk and other advanced social skills

Today, I want to take you to the next level by giving you even more advanced material — plus another challenge.

Here’s what I created for you today:

  • “Small Talk” Hacks —  A 30-minute video crash course where I’ll show you subtle social hacks and advanced techniques for improving your social skills. I’ve never released this before.
  • A giveaway for professional social-skills training with the very same media-training firm I used to prepare for national TV. All expenses (including travel to NYC) paid by me. Total value: $5,000 out of my pocket.
  • New material on the invisible costs of having average social skills

Now let me show you what happens on the other end of the spectrum — when you eliminate catastrophes like me being forced to hit on a recovering alcoholic at a bar (??).

Instant Irresistibility: What “A+” social skills mean

I have a friend who’s an actress. We were talking about how she’d gone on a bunch of dates and the guys always fell in love with her. They had an instant rapport with her and felt the connection was incredibly deep after meeting her for an hour.

What they failed to understand was that she’s so socially skilled, she’s able to evoke this feeling of awe in most people she interacts with. She’s being totally transparent and ethical, but her social skills are so advanced that they bring out the best version of herself — making her almost irresistible.

In other words, having finely honed social skills is like taking a machine gun to a swordfight — FOR LIFE.

When you’re armed with amazing social skills, you can go to a party with no alcohol, only knowing 1 or 2 people… and still engage with ANYONE there. You can walk into an interview completely comfortable and nail tough question after tough question. You can contribute ideas in work meetings and know you’ll be taken seriously (and not talked over). When you walk into your boss’s office for a raise, you’re calm and confident instead of nervously wavering and turning into a puddle of goo. Improving your social skills can truly be your most valuable skill.

And that’s what social skills are: skills that can be systematically improved.

The compounding power of advanced social skills

I love hearing people complain, “Ugh, it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” Then they sit back in their chairs, eat another donut, and never take the time to figure how out how to IMPROVE THEIR SOCIAL SKILLS AND MEET MORE INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE! You, my jackass friend, are a whiny loser who expects the world to work the way YOU want it to — instead of responding to the way it ACTUALLY works.

If you’re an IWT reader, you live in a world of what IS, not what SHOULD be.

That means recognizing these classic barriers people make about improving their social skills.

  • “Ugh, I don’t want to be one of those douchebags and start changing the way I dress and how I talk. They should like me for who I am.” Ironically, the people who use this excuse do not want to change, yet are often highly judgmental themselves.
  • “If I just work hard, they’ll recognize me.” This old chestnut has been said by many an Excel expert who sat in the corner, patiently creating pivot table after pivot table, only to see the loud/salesy guy get promoted, leading them to bitterly complain about “asshole marketing guys.” See Five Geek Social Fallacies. They never understand the game being played around them.
  • “I just need to get more experience before I (ask for a raise / ask for a promotion / try to get that Dream Job).” More experience might help, but as your career advances, improving your social skills is almost certainly worth more than technical talent alone.

The truth is, talent alone isn’t enough. It matters, but social skills become increasingly important — and sometimes are worth more than technical skills altogether! For example, I’ve hired people who weren’t the best at their technical skill…but they had excellent communication skills.

Elite college admission committees know this.

So does your boss.

Improving your social skills means being able to instantly “read” someone and communicate in the BEST possible way — including knowing how much detail to add, using amusing stories from your “Story Toolbox”, and comfortably sharing the very best version of yourself.

Ever notice a celebrity on The Daily Show or Conan? They don’t just come up with those stories on the fly. They’re tested, refined, and used only when they’re perfect. Much like Chris Rock practices his jokes until they’re flawless.

And as you get better at your social skills, you get more and more opportunities to practice them at higher and higher levels — getting invited to more social events, the pivotal conversation with your boss’s boss, the attractive guy you finally got the courage to talk to.

In other words, as your social skills improve, they get increasingly better, faster. They compound, making them one of your most powerful assets that can never be stripped away.

The invisible costs of poor social skills

But what happens if your social skills are just average?

Sometimes, it seems the people who don’t recognize the importance of social skills are the people who need it MOST:

She’ll never know what she missed.

How many of us go through this every day? The scary thing is, we’ll never know what we missed out on because of poor social skills. Those opportunities simply cease to exist.

For example…

  • We don’t talk to that girl at the bar, then kick ourselves later. Add this up over years and we end up getting our “second pick” of partners — not the ones we WANT, but the ones who are convenient or left over.
  • We stagnate in making new friends, since it’s hard to meet real friends after college. Especially if you’re not going out a lot.
  • We might be technically very skilled, but we bomb the interview, or get passed over for a promotion, or we’re not in the “inner circle” of people at work whom the boss favors.

There are even more haunting examples of the consequences of having mediocre social skills:

  • I have friends who thought earning enough would be enough to attract a partner. They’ve spent the last 5-10 years on their career, but never took the time to learn how to talk to men and women on a personal level. (A lot of Indian people are like this, actually.) Now what? They’ve got great jobs and lots of money in the bank, but they’re missing a core skill — and as a result, the pool of potential high-caliber partners is way smaller than for someone else.
  • One of my friends runs a successful tech company and was considering acquiring a small 1-man company. After a night of drinking, he asked me what I thought of the guy. He’s a good friend so I told him the brutal truth: I told him that the guy was way too cocky for his experience, I wouldn’t want him on my team, and I told him exactly why. My friend canceled the acquisition the next day. That guy will never know that his social skills cost him a 7-figure payday.

What do all these missed opportunities add up to over 10 years? 30 years?

If you learned even ONE technique to improve your social skills — something you can use every day while talking to co-workers, men, women, even random people on the street — what would that be worth?

Introducing My “Small Talk” Hacks Video

I created a new video for you, a 30-minute crash course on improving your social skills. I didn’t want to just offer you one or two random “tips.” I wanted to go deeper.

The video includes easy scripts for starting a conversation, keeping it going, and politely ending conversations (even with ramblers). I also included a live social-skills teardown about how to make small talk, plus the powerful concept of the Story Toolbox.

1:28   - Watch as I analyze my latest national TV appearance, beat-by-beat
4:07   - The social skills mistakes I used to make
5:44   - How do you start a conversation with a stranger?
8:20   - How do you keep the conversation going?
13:47 – How do you end a conversation politely?
16:57 – Your Story Toolbox: How can make yourself memorable?
20:50 – How do you make small talk?
25:03 – How to win an all-expenses paid trip to NYC for social-skills training (a $5,000 value)

TO DO TODAY

In the video at 16:57, I described the Story Toolbox, a Dream Job concept that lets you walk into any interaction — a job interview, bar, or cocktail party — and instantly have 5-10 stories to use at any given moment.

Top performers know that by having these stories ready to use — stories that consistently get positive reactions — they can instantly connect with anyone.

Today, I want you to start building your Story Toolbox.

Here’s your challenge:

  1. Brainstorm ONE engaging story (like my story about the recovering alcoholic at the bar), then test it on 1 person — a friend, family member, coworker, even a stranger.
  1. In the comments below, share the story (just an excerpt) and the reaction you got. It’s OK to get a negative reaction! Share whatever you find below.

Sign up for my email list so I can hold you accountable to take action.

 

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640 Comments

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  1. My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is knowing what to say. I wish rambling were my problem. Before I ever meet with someone new or someone who makes me nervous, I always have a mini-pep talk with myself, telling myself to try saying X, if not, try Y. I also daydream about how I want to sound and look. Then I wonder why can’t I just be natural like everyone else seems to be?

    For example, I went to an event a few months ago. I decided to summon my courage and strike up a conversation with a simple question: “What brings you to this place?” The older guy responded, “The same thing as everyone else here.” I managed to stammer a random follow-up line. It went on for a while before it petered out, and I missed opportunities to speak with others. I’m still not sure whether he was the awkward one or me.

    One thing that did help was to come up with a few topics of conversation when I went out with a female friend. Knowing I would be spending hours with her, I felt I needed something to go off of in case it’s too awkward. Whenever I wanted to introduce a new topic, I would remember one of the items (which were written down in a note in my pocket that I consulted while she was in the bathroom). It worked well, and I don’t remember any awkwardness. I’m fairly sure it would have been less interesting without planned conversations, but my friend recommended that I just go for it naturally. I am not someone who can think quickly on his feet. Should conversations be free-flowing or scripted? Perhaps free-flowing with scripted points of conversation? Seems like interviews are rooted in basic social skills (lucky me).

    Then there was the phone interview I botched because I was plain nervous. I had some things ready to say, but the interview did not head in that direction. In retrospect, I could have guided the conversation that way, but not being able to see the other party made it difficult to follow cues.

    The takeaway from my three stories here is that having premeditated topics before having the conversation will help, but only if I can use them. I may be nervous, or the other person may have an unexpected response, but I suppose those are avenues for me to remember not to use in the future. Among my weaknesses, this would still be my biggest one because I’ve been sitting here wondering what I’m going to say at the lunch I promised with another female friend that I want to catch up with.

  2. Seeing superior social skills in action can be an awesome experience. Literally, as in you can be awestruck.

    In sixth grade I had a classmate who was wildly popular and seemed (to me) to fun with a fast crowd. She was completely on the opposite corner of the classroom (she sat front right, I sat back left) and I never had an opportunity to talk with her that year (besides I couldn’t imagine we had anything in common), so I didn’t actually know her at all.

    Then I moved away but returned to the town occasionally as I still had relatives there. A couple years later I’m back there on Thanksgiving weekend and decide to take a short walk before dinner.

    I run into a friend, Luann comes by,, a fourth kid joins us. We’re all participating in the conversation but the attention is all on Luann.

    She melted me inside twice in five minutes without directly talking to me – she was talking to all of us – which was a good thing because (as far as I observed) nobody else noticed what I was experiencing. Nobody else has ever had that kind of effect on me but it was a really WOW experience and if you’ve ever experienced it you want to learn how to become a people magnet.

    • Terrific example, RB — almost all of us have been in this scenario at least once. The power of meeting someone with outstanding social skills is a truly awesome experience. Best of all, most of us can dramatically improve our own skills with some practice.

  3. Biggest weakness: Liking my own company too much. Often I’m happy being by myself, so don’t bother to start talking to people and then when I feel like talking to some one, I’ve made no connections so there is no one to talk to.

    When I’m telling stories, I nearly always end up telling stories about other people as I’ve had too many negative reactions when talking about things I’ve done (really mostly maths, I at least have enough sense not to talk about coding). Was talking to a friend of friend who was the liberal arts going to work for a non-profit and do volunteering with elephants on the side type. She asked what I was doing for my PhD, I said I was in operations research, which mostly looks at business processes, how to optimise them etc. and gave an example of how it can be used in manufacturing. She changed the conversation to her elephant volunteering.

    (I’m now much better at this sort of question thanks to the three minute thesis competition, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjnFfcrkuUk)

  4. Theodore Glave Link to this comment

    My biggest issue lately is seeming like a ‘know it all.’ When I was in college, I never got a chance to read things I was really interested in because I was always so busy (invisible script…I know better now). But since, I started working I’ve really been engaging in more of my interests and reading widely and a lot more. The down side of that has been that a lot of my conversations now start with, “well this one book I was reading talks about that…” Or, this blog IWT, I’ve been reading it a lot lately it talks about x, y, z. I want to get away from that or do it in a more socially acceptable way. I feel like I come off as knowing all answers to all situations, which isn’t true, I’m just a little overly excited when I see the things I read about happen in real life. I didn’t even realize I was doing this until two of my friends pointed it out. So my issue is speaking about interesting things without being “that guy.”

    • Christian K.N. Link to this comment

      I do this too. It seems to help, however, if I don’t always back up my statements with sources. People’s eyes will glaze over if I say, “Ramit Sethi makes a point in his book, that a, b and c.”, but if I just pass a, b and c as facts they’ll listen intently. The same goes for advice; in smalltalk, people will only listen if it comes from me, not from some book I’ve read. It probably has to do with the confidence of taking ownership of what I say, and realizing that smalltalk is all about form, not substance. (If they’re really interested, you can send them the curriculum later ;-) )

    • I have this same problem– I like Christian’s response. I’m going to give it a try. I get so excited about the stuff I’m learning that I love to share it with people who show interest….I’m always backing it up with the source. I didn’t realize that it comes across as not having confidence….but that completely makes sense because I’m actually naming the source so I *don’t* appear to be a ‘know-it-all’….hmmm

  5. I know that my biggest weakness in my social skills is not what I have to say, but my self-confidence about myself, which is basically the invisible scripts that I tell myself about how I am incompetent and why I couldn’t get the other person to be interested in what I have to say. Conversation, while having these invisible scripts has produce many many awkward moments in my life and thinking about them still gives me that sick feeling in the stomach.

    After watching the video from this post, I can actually get answers to why some of my social interactions went from normal to awkward at the end, here’s my story

    I remember once when I try striking up a conversation with someone in a party, a very pretty lady. I introduced myself to her and asked a lot of questions, which includes my name, where I go to school, what my major is, what I learned from college, what my part time job is (talking too much about myself), and I was also making a mistake of asking too much questions, making the whole conversation like an interview. I notice that after all these yes/no questions I asked, her body language changed from facing towards me to slowly away from me with one of her foot pointing side ways, which gave me that gnawing feeling that I did not know before I took the time to understand social interactions.
    The bottom line of the story is, external skills like asking the right questions and story telling can improve your social skills a lot, but the most important thing is the invisible scripts that I have made for myself, which is to become the guy who own and command these skills, like a skilled hunter with his rifle and tools.

    I did however, made a very big improvement by dressing better. I notice that after taking the time to improve my appearance, my internal scripts were different, I tell myself that I’m looking good and people also picked up on that and even gave me comments about how different I behave by simply dressing a bit cooler than usual. I’m not saying that external appearance is the most important aspects of social interactions, but that it does help change how you feel about yourself, in a positive manner. People start listening to what I have to say and I was using the same skills that I was always using, but has immediate observable results.

    One last thing Ramit, I notice that a lot of your skills seem to be similar to that of pick up artists from years ago, hahaha, not trying to be disrespectful in any way, but they just sound awfully familiar with things like “improving your game”, “fake it till you make it” and becoming the man that command all the “can-openers” rather than memorizing the pickup lines and try hard to be “cocky and funny”. (I’m probably saying too much, please don’t kill me Ramit)

    • Good point. I suspect that woman wasn’t into you because (1) you were interviewing her with a barrage of 50 questions, and (2) she’s been asked those same questions over 1,000 times. You’ll learn how to be original.

      Btw, yes, I have studied the pickup world. It’s similar to how I studied the dark side of direct-response copywriting — I want to understand it all so I can extract the best parts for you.

  6. One thing I have difficulty doing is telling stories without sounding like Hansel from Zoolander “So there I am, rappelling down Mt Vesuvius…”

    I’m blessed to have had some great experiences in my life but I don’t want to come across as someone who brags about their exploits. I hate that guy. I’m not that guy.

    So rather then risk coming across as “full of himself,” I can overcompensate and end up acting quite sheepish. I only tell stories in context of course, but if someone is say, sharing a travelling story I’m conscious about “one-upping” that person and try to avoid that. One technique I’ve used if I find myself in that one-upping situation is I try and quickly bring the attention back to their story and talk about how they felt during their experience and make it more about how I can relate to them because I had a similar experience rather than turn it into some kind of pissing contest.

    The dynamic changes again if there are more people in the conversation. For example, if a guy is clearly trying to impress a girl, I’m not going to jump in with a story. I’m happily married, let the guy have his moment, no reason to be a dick about it – I’m not competing for her attention.

    I’m not naturally social; I have a very analytical, introverted mind.

    I used to really struggle with social skills, but one weird thing really helped me years ago, was people watching while hallucinating. In that state, peoples’ facial features and body language seemed highly emphasised – like caricatures. The smallest smile, raise of an eyebrow, placement of the body and the hands I could pick up a mile away. I never consciously recognised these things before, but they now seem very obvious and I pick up on it much more easily. This happened several years ago, and it is one experience that I can point to as making me take an interest in how people interacted, rather than dismissing social nuance as ‘trivial’ or ‘unimportant’ as I did previously. Its the first time I really noticed the social game being played around me.

    I would recommend people go people watching (mind-bending drugs optional!) and really focus on the small things; Ramit touched on this in his video when he talks about overhearing couples on dates. It is a small tip, but was a game changer for me.

    • I am one of those passive people that leans on the other person to carry the conversation. In the last year, I’ve really worked on starting conversations and I can now fairly easily start a conversation. Maintaining it is a completely different story. Ramit, you would be screaming at me like you do that people in the coffee shop. They end up going something like this:
      Me: “Hi, I’m Kim. Nice to meet you.”
      John: “Hi, I’m John.”
      Me: “So are you here for the XXXXX conference?” (Stupid question as that’s the only reason to be at the mixer.)
      John: “Yes, I’m a contractor.”
      Me: “Really, what area do you cover?” (Another stupid question as it’s on the name tag half the time.)
      John: “I cover Maryland and Delaware for your company. What do you do?”
      Me: “I’m a trainer. I teach the new employees on the processes.”
      John: “So you’re how I should contact when….. Ha!”
      Me: “Ummmm sure…”
      *AWKWARD PAUSE*

      The worst thing about awkward pauses that they are so hard to get out of or to end the conversation once they happen.

      I really think that this is what has been holding me back at work from the promotion or raise. (That and I just discovered your blog last week.I have a folder of accomplishments now and have been filling it up!)

  7. Great post, but…what is a recovering alcoholic doing in a bar?!!

    • God forbid that a recovering alcoholic hang out where everyone else is!

    • She’s probably trying to meet people and improve her social skills. Or she’s trying to meet cool guys like Ramit.

    • Dancing thats what I do. I dont drink I drive. Am I being a know it all? lol

    • K, recovering alcoholic in a bar for social reasons, I can buy that… but if you’re in control enough to be at a bar, be in control enough to be cool about it when someone brings up alcohol at an effing bar. How about “no thanks, I don’t drink”?

      She needs to work on her small talk skills.

  8. It is hard to pinpoint my biggest flaw. Not because I don’t have one but because on any given day in any given situation it may change. I have had days where I can walk into a party alone where I sort of know the host, and be a hit and make a bunch of new friends. I leave feeling confident and fun, feeling like I gained a new experience. I have been invited to trips to Oregon, Belize, Texas and Colorado from this openness. But other times I can even be out with a group of 20 friends who I am close with and feel like a social freak, I stumble on my words and feel myself not knowing what to say or how to engage my own friends! If that isn’t a problem I’m not sure what is.

  9. My biggest social skill weakness is being passive. I tend to get stuck talking to time-monopolizers and miss out on talking to other people I really want to meet. When I do find myself chatting with an interesting person, I’m very bad at redirecting the conversation with my own questions and comments –and the more I like the person I’m talking to, the less inclined I am to steer the conversation, out of (irrational) fear that I’ll come off as uninterested in what the person is saying, or that I’ll interfere with the next thing that person might want to say.

  10. Nathan Straathof Link to this comment

    My Biggest Social Weakness: Reading the person I am conversing with. I’m struggling to know if they enjoy the topic we are discussing, or if they are wishing to change topics. For example, I’ll continue to ask follow up questions, they’ll continue to answer my questions, but nothing more. So it’s like I’m pulling teeth. Are they wishing I’d stop or are they just super terrible at having a conversation?

  11. I’ve got a lot of weaknesses socially but I think the biggest is carrying a conversation. When I do get the courage up to try and start a conversation with a stranger the conversation just dies. There are times when I have great conversations (at least what i perceive to be great conversations) with people but I think that’s more because they carry the conversation.

    For example, I was at a bar a few weeks ago for a meet and greet being put together by my favorite podcast. I spent most of the night sitting in the corner with my wife.

  12. My phone screwed up and published my comment before I was done so I will just continue here.

    When I did get up to talk to the guys from the podcast or had other fans try to make small talk with me it usually didn’t get much past “How did you find out about the show?”. Lots of awkward silences and me running back to me seat with me wife.

    I’m ok trying to get out of my comfort zone I just don’t know really what to talk about.

  13. Without realising it I appear to have some of these canned anecdotes in my arsenal already. I trot them out sometimes when meeting new people. I hadn’t really considered this before. I will for the purposes of this, test one an report back though.

    Thinking about it my stories are almost always humorous and poke fun at either myself or a colleague/friend. I wonder how I am perceived when I make myself a figure of fun? I’m not sure if it is positive in a business environment or not. I will have to research this. Anyone have any thoughts?

    Here’s an example of a genuine story that happended to a colleague that I have used on several occassions when I have found a way to ‘work it in’. One of my co-workers (actually a fairly senior manager) booked a trip for himself and his wife to Vienna and on arriving asked the taxi driver where the canals were! He had meant to take her to Venice. The same guy wanted so see a company that had the word Hannover in their name. So he went to Hannover, not realising that the company was actually based in Switzerland! So if I can mention one story I cane segueway(?) it into the other.

  14. Biggest weakness: starting a conversation with someone I’ve never met. If I’ve got an introduction, everything’s great. But but if it’s someone new entirely, it still just feels like a huge undertaking and it’s hard to build up the steam to make that leap.
    You’ve given some tools for pushing past that, and each one gets easier. It’s still a tough emotional barrier to get over though.

  15. Ramit!

    At 15:53 – 16:49 in the video you described my friend perfectly! I died laughing! The last time my friend rambled on like that he was letting his car warm up before heading home from my place. He asked to smoke a cigarette while he waited. I said sure and told him I needed to take a quick shower since I had work in the morning. I turn on my shower, left it running to get some clothes, and on my way back he stops me. For over 30 minutes he tells me a story WHILE MY SHOWER WAS RUNNING. I had no idea how to make it more obvious that it was time to go! We are literally standing next to the door listening to the water run and all I can do is look in amazement that his mouth is still moving. I have dozens of stories like this and have been struggling to figure out what to say to him without being extremely rude about it.

    I have sent him a link to the youtube video to try and give him a subtle hint haha Hopefully he gets it :)

    Chris

  16. Biggest challenge is keeping the small talk engaging & not rambling. Enjoy the fact that you have a nuts and bolts approach and not “psychodribble”-you get it done.

  17. My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is that I talk too little when I am meeting people for the first time because I am overly self-conscious of how others will judge me by what I say. I mostly worry that I won’t live up to my credentials (i.e. people will think I sound stupid for how smart I’m “supposed” to be), even in social settings. So I say nothing. I think this gives the impression that I am arrogant and stand-offish. Also, saying nothing makes it impossible to bond with people. Later, I notice that people who actually said things (even things that weren’t brilliant) have bonded with each other, and I feel bad for not speaking up. I’ve tried to force myself to say something–anything–in these situations, but it sounds forced and I feel awkward. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of informational interviews in my job search and this has helped me to feel more natural talking about myself. However, during the one job interview I had, I bombed — I felt that the stories I told didn’t sound genuine, and I think I came across as awkward. I really need help refining my social skills in these high-pressure situations. Please pick me for the social-skills training!

    • Mala, check out the challenge at the end of the post. Leave your story and the reaction you got. Stories can be improved pretty easily (I cover this with hours of videos in my Dream Job course).

  18. I’m in the midst of transitioning from engineering to my dream job, a career in music performance—a field in which networking and reaching out to people (audiences, potential colleagues, potential donors, audition committees…) is especially key to “making it.” I tend to talk too fast and sometimes struggle to find the right words and keep a sense of the arc of what I’m saying; I was part of a toastmasters club at my old job which helped me to sometimes catch myself speeding and take more time, and to get better at stamping out the dreaded crutch words (um, etc), but I still struggle to remember the most interesting or deepest parts of what I have to say (for example if I’m explaining my career change or a particular project I want to take on) until minutes after a conversation has ended. I think I might be overwhelmed by engaging with the person, fearing how they might be judging me, and my natural tendency to be very accommodating in an effort to make everyone feel at ease, which prevents me from grounding back to what I have to say and getting it to come out of my mouth. I’d like to transfer the same skills (or perhaps separately address—not sure how this media training works) to my stage presence when performing music. The classical world is so staid in the concert hall, with very little eye contact from performer to audience; players who succeed in connecting are the exceptions, and of course more engaging and successful. I’d like to become one of those people, looking totally at ease on stage and showing the audience that I’m there for them, to share this piece of music with them and help them connect with themselves and each other through it, and to connect with my colleagues on stage by clearly communicating with body language of a more specific kind as we create a story without words together on the fly. I am also very short and would love some help practicing carrying and presenting myself in a way that makes me seem taller and more charismatic—physically overcoming the same tendency to accommodate everyone I described already. I definitely had the experience of being ignored in meetings, sometimes to have someone else put forward my idea afterwards, because I was too self-deprecating and timid in my delivery and didn’t want to intrude on my seemingly vastly more experienced colleagues.

  19. I haven’t been able to watch the video yet so I imagine this comes up, but to quote a famous Irish comedian “it’s the way you them!” that engages people. the story itself can be secondary sometimes.

  20. For a long time I’ve had a lot of limiting beliefs surrounding being liked, avoiding conflict, and in general being sensitive about what people think of me as I’m talking to them. Though this was a hindrance in many ways it did leave me with one good thing: I was constantly calibrating my conversations by gauging people’s reaction to whatever I said (much like Ramit suggested) in an effort to ensure people liked me. This made me really good at making people comfortable enough to talk about themselves and share many things with me but at the end of conversations it left them knowing very little about me.

    This is a double edged sword because it sometimes makes me come off as inauthentic or of lower value…i.e. why is this guy so concerned about me yet he shares nothing? What is he hiding? etc.

    So for me striking the balance between having someone feel comfortable to open up with me, while I’m able to reciprocate will go a long way to taking me from “nice guy” to actually creating an emotional connection

  21. Amanda Dunning Link to this comment

    Hi Ramit,
    I wanted to thank you again for this series, it has been such an eye opener for me to realize that I can develop my social skills and I’m not stuck being a shy wallflower for the rest of my life.

    My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills would have to be the anxiety that just the thought of talking to a stranger brings on, I’m constantly worried that I’m not good enough, that I won’t say the “right things”, or that the person will just think I’m an idiot who rambles on and on about nothing. It’s gotten so bad that I will actually turn down invitations to parties and networking gatherings because I would have to talk to strangers, but I’m trying to start my own business now and I know that I can’t have this anxiety around networking if I want my business to succeed. I was laid off this past November from an amazing job that I thought I was doing great at and that has shaken a bit of the confidence I gained through that work experience from speaking up at meetings and sharing my ideas.

    Being able to have this social skills training would certainly change my life for the better and help me realize my dream of running my own business doing what I love and allow me to expand my circle of friends which at the moment is very small. I’m tired of hiding in the shadows, but I don’t know how to step into the light with confidence.

    Thanks again Ramit, you don’t know how much these emails have been helping me and I really appreciate the time you take for us.

    Take care,

    Amanda

  22. Phew! First off I’m a little nervous about posting a comment right now but I’ll give it a shot (this is RAMIT he might even be able to help me)

    I think my weaknesses in the social arena come from not not knowing what others think of me. I take voice or speaking classes where everyone is making comments left and right about each other’s performances but when I do my thing-it seems like there are suddenly crickets… I don’t know if it’s good bad or ugly.

    I wanna do small talk but I don’t want to be like the guy you mentioned that you had to be ULTRA DIRECT with to get away from.

    Whether you pick me or not…thanks for reading my comment

  23. Sunday morning I was out showing a couple of houses to a first time homebuyer. I will add this is my second time showing houses. The gentleman started concersating with me about where he is from and telling me a story about one of his friends who has owned a few houses because he is a player and keeps on getting divorced and remarried. Not sure what he was trying to say with the story, I continued walking him around the house. He asked me personal questions. was I married and how many children I had and where I was from and if I had been here long. As I answered the questions I felt so awkward and caught myself avoiding eye contact. I even noticed I would answer the questions with very short answers and moving on. I can’t help but think that if I was better at social skills and felt more confident not only would I have been better at keeping the conversation going and making eye contact but perhaps I would have been able to sell the man a house over the weekend versus spending how ever much longer showing him houses. I’m concerned he will find another realtor to work with.

  24. I vividly recall a high school party (some 20 years ago!) when I felt a bit insecure. I was around some girls that I considered to be “out of my league.” I somehow gained a foothold in the conversation and told a story. While telling the story, I relaxed and noticed, as you mentioned, what seemed to “hit” and what didn’t. At the conclusion of my story, the cutest girl there gave me a huge smile and said, “I love talking to you! You’re a great storyteller.”

    And THAT’S where my problem actually started.

    I let that one statement from that one girl really soak in, apparently. And now, years later, I have been told on countless occasions that my stories, while being funny, are too long. My buddies, in good-natured fashion, razz me about it, as does my wife. And try as hard as I might, I cannot seem to hone the skill of getting to the point and shutting my “pie hole.” And a story which might (emphasis on “might”) otherwise have been memorable for humor’s sake is now memorable for having been only slightly shorter than Homer’s “The Odyssey.”

    • I am right with you Kevin (except for the cute girl complimenting bit). ^_^ I think I do too much to set my stories up but I doubt that covers all the reasons my stories tend to go on for too long. Still, it is so difficult for me to not “set the scene” even when someone (like my husband) point blank asks me to get to the point. “But it’s so much funnier if you’d let me describe where we were!” I’ll reply.

  25. Oh yeah great sari..or is it a toga when worn by a man?

  26. Tristan Davies Link to this comment

    I’m not sure if this stems from my childhood and my parents telling me that its rude to talk about yourself too much but my biggest social weakness is not knowing how to talk about myself and being able to direct the conversation. Specifically when a conversation is starting (usually this happens with people I already know but is not exempt from this). For example, after being greeted, if someone doesn’t ask me a direct question and asks me a more vague question like, “whats new?” I never know what to say and answer in something like “nothing exciting” because unless something stands out or really interesting happens, everything just seems like it’s in my normal daily life. I dont think they would be that interested in what is “routine stuff.” I recognise that other people have these stories about their life and its not always the most exciting thing in the world that they talk about but it’s a reflection of what is current in their life. When they tell me they tell it in a way that is interesting and the conversation usually flows from there. I will relate to what they are saying and can give an example or tell a story of something like that in my own life or move the subject along etc…. The initial part is always the hardest for me.

    I’ve known that this has been a problem of mine for awhile but I never really knew how to adress it. It has always felt like I needed permission from the other person before I could tell a story.

    After watching this video I think I would benefit from having a story toolbox and using that to be more reflective about my life as well as be prepared for the questions I know people are going to ask. I’m going to refine stories I already have to make sure I will always have a story to “fall back on” if I’m not sure what to say. The great thing about this is that I can continually add to it and think about my toolbox at any time as well as having the ability to add to it. In the beginning consciously adding to it weekly and monthly with recent events will allow me to have confidence in talking about recent events. As time goes on I’m sure I’ll have more and more stories that I will be able to quickly rely on in any situation depending on what’s needed at the time.

    With the toolbox I think I will benefit a lot from not only writing the stories out but practicing them so I become more fluent and more confident when telling them and this in theory will eliminate my barrier of needing permission from the other person before talking about myself.

    Now that I am aware of this technique, I’m going to make sure I am prepared for the next time I am starting to have a conversation, which is more than likely going to be tomorrow morning, so that I can begin to track my progress and learn from my mistakes because I want to make sure I improve.

  27. Hey Ramit,

    Exceptional video and many thanks for putting this video together!

    For someone as myself who struggles to stay in tune with my social skills, the biggest obstacle is keeping the conversation going and taking control. For example, I recently met up with an old friend who I haven’t spoke to in some time and to make the experience tougher, this friend was a woman. I really wanted to impress her, but found myself nervous and random thoughts running through my head. I had a tough time coming up with new material to talk about and keeping things fresh. At times, I desperately found myself coming up with something to fill the awkward void of silence.

    After watching your video, I can pick up on key areas I’m weak and start improving. Thanks again Ramit!

  28. Ramit,

    I LOVE your blog post on social skills and wanted to share a story of social interaction gone horribly wrong. Like your recent encounter flirting with that woman, it happened in a bar. As a background, I work for a global company that’s a household name. People love our products so much that we actually have a huge problem with counterfeiters. My supervisor catches these people, and he’s good chums with NYPD and Federal Agents whose job is bringing these people in. We lose a fortune to forgery and theft.

    So I’m at the bar meeting people and this guy chats me up. Our conversation goes like this:

    Guy: What do you do?
    Me: I work at [COMPANY] -
    *before I can finish, the guy cuts me off*
    Guy: Oh, I divert your products!
    Me: … What?
    Guy: *launches into huge explanation of what diversion is and how he does it*

    If this guy had the slightest clue, he would not have cut me off, because he would have learned that my job is catching people like him. If he stopped for 2 seconds, he also would have learned that I was not asking “What?” because I didn’t understand what he was talking about but because I was shocked that someone would be so dumb as to flirt with me by announcing, “Hey, I rob you!” I understood EXACTLY what he was saying, better than he did, but he made an assumption about my own knowledge and proceeded to try to impress me. In the process, he laid his operation bare.

    Once it became apparent he really was this dumb (didn’t take long), I bit my lip and smiled as he proceeded to outline his operation. He even gave me his business card. I went to work the next day and relayed the story (and his contact info) to my boss, who laughed his ass off for 10 minutes, then called his NYPD buddy. I could hear the police officer laughing over the phone all the way from my desk.

    So like you, my flirting experience didn’t end in a date, but in my case I may have helped someone get arrested along with his network.

  29. My biggest problem is deciding what to not include in my stories. They go on too long but more importantly, they aren’t paced properly because I ruin the beginning-middle-end arc with relevant bits of story that don’t fit AT ALL.

    One example, I was in west Africa for a photo project on motorcycles used for healthcare and had a crazy experience trying to get home involving ATMs being out of money, the president chartering the plane I was supposed to be on, black market currency exchange, a 12 hour cab ride through the night, and a federal holiday prohibiting driving, etc. . I literally cannot make it interesting! It all seems so important to me but IT’S NOT INTERESTING the way I tell it. There is just too much crap and people just glaze over.

    I have my own photography business and it kills me every time I fail horribly to convey the story of me and my business. Im sure this weakness is also a huge problem for me in ways that I don’t even realize. I’m a visual journalist and storyteller. People pay me to tell their stories. I’m good at it with images but I can’t make it happen consistently with words. I can’t image that’s inspiring a lot of trust.

    • This is really common. In the Dream Job course, I include literally hours of me taking boring, meandering stories like this and making them fun and engaging — right on the spot. I’ll show you how in DJ (opening later this month).

    • Dang, Teddy, you’ve got my interest piqued! That sounds like an amazing story, possibly a potential guest post on a travel blog.

    • I agree! Maybe laying out that story outline is a good tool?

  30. One of my go-to stories (especially in groups of people I don’t know all that well) is the one about how I was blind for a month and a half. (

    I know, I know, it seems weird–”So, you just tell a bunch of people that you were blind for a month and a half? How is that EVER relevant?”–but here’s the thing, it always garners some kind of response. One of the most typical instant responses is sympathy, of course, because most people can relate to health issues and most people also hold their eyesight in pretty high esteem. Sometimes it starts to turn the conversation into a one-upmanship contest about who has had the weirdest health issues–I try to stay away from this, because it’s not the point and can get weird pretty quickly.

    The other funny thing about this story is that even though it’s not all that refined, and even though the core of the story is just about not being able to see for a month and a half, it’s actually a pretty easy story to squeeze in almost anywhere, for some reason. I guess it’s that whole ubiquity-of-eyesight thing again.

    I’ve found that overall, I’m decently ace when it comes to social situations. If I’m in the proper mood, I can be a butterfly, make connections with people I don’t even know, and end an evening feeling confident and refreshed. But the catch is that I have to be in the proper mood–if I’m caught post-Bikram class in my sweaty yoga clothes, or if I didn’t get anywhere near a decent amount of sleep, or if I am feeling especially hungry/angry/lonely/tired, I become much more of a hermit. I’m always content to observe (because people are SUPER interesting, since we’re all a bunch of weirdos), but it takes effort to push outside of that quiet-observer stasis and be an engaging social personality.

    • This is a great hook.

    • I take some of that back. Thinking on it again, I’m only “decently ace” in these sorts of network-y situations. I can fake it til I make it and even manage to make real connections in these situations, which is great. But sometimes, one-on-one, I run into problems.

      For instance, I’m pretty great at recognizing when a story I thought was going to be good ends up going nowhere–and I’ll call myself on it, and that usually gets laughs. But there are other situations that freeze me up, too. For some reason, I just can’t deal with questions like “How’s your day?” or “How are you?” or “What’s going on?” I’m pretty sure it’s because I overanalyze them, but I also don’t really use those questions myself. When people ask me these really general questions, I simultaneously feel the urge to give a standard, expected response (“Fine” “Nothing much”, etc.) as well as the urge to spew a bunch of truth that I don’t think people really want to/need to/expect to hear (“Well, I’m feeling a bit concerned about the future of my career and its intersection with my happiness, today”). Usually, this results in a sort of awkward freeze from me, followed by an awkward explanation that I really hate those sorts of questions. NOT great social skills, those.

    • Breanna, I feel the exact same way. If I’m in a good mood I’m super extroverted and can talk to anyone and make jokes and connect with people. If not, I just want to be left alone, content to observe but not in control of the situation. It’s something that I’m looking to improve.

      It would be ace to be an extrovert in any mood which is something I’d like to accomplish.

    • I have the same trouble with overanalysing those questions, they used to immediately put me on the defensive – “why do you want to know?” until Ramit educated me on the importance of small talk.

      “What brought you here?” is a particularly bad one for me, I have to really bite my tongue not to reply “I drove, my car is in the parking lot out there.”

  31. Hey Ramit,

    Just wanted to drop a quick comment after watching the vid,
    Really helpful, hits on some really great points.
    ‘What brought you here’ was a nice, very underused (as you said) opener, appreciated that one! I’ll get working on my story toolbox, its been something I’ve been meaning to do but this lil vid was just the right amount to spur it on and get the ToDo item scheduled!

    Cheers,

    Chris

    • Actually I agree with Breanna, I’m pretty good when I’m in the mood. There are sometimes when I just can’t be bothered and people watch.

  32. Great post. Thanks, Ramit.

    My biggest challenge is to become both smoother & more concise in my deliver, especially on complex topics. For example, I often find myself pausing to think about how I want to word something, and either closing my eyes or looking at the ceiling while I do so. It’s like a series of small seizures where I look like I’m catatonic for 5-10 seconds at a time. Then, because my internal clock has kind of reset during that thought process, I find myself going on too long. I need to develop a more concise, less awkward delivery.

  33. I find myself knowing what to say, how to say it, but when the time comes (work and personal situations) I find myself backing away from the comment or point I was going to make.

    For instance, I usually do not talk myself up too much at work (which I am finding accounts for my lack of satisfaction with my job) but when I am in a meeting I find myself holding back. During post meeting briefings, I make a few comments on how the meeting went and I have had the recurring feedback of, “Why didn’y you share that with…” I continually like to speak in facts and undeniable truth, which often gets me the, what the hell is this guy talking about look. Social skills work in progress!

    • Reply for Tyler – It may be a case of you being an introvert. This is not a bad thing, just a difference in two major areas – where you gain energy from, and how/when you process information. Introverts have a tendency to take more time formulating ideas closer to actual finished project before sharing while extroverts have a tendency of verbally processing ideas as soon the ideas pop in their heads. Something an introverted friend of mine uses is she’ll tell people in the meeting that she’s chewing on it still and will respond later. Then when she, like you has those great ideas later, shares them in an e-mail blast to all those at the meeting. This may be a great way for you to not only share more ideas, but also have them in a concrete fashion where people will likely keep them ( and be useful for Ramit-style negotiating.)

      I hope this helps!

  34. My biggest issue is that I was a hugely awkward weirdo in my youth, like you, Ramit! This is an issue because even though I am way more adept and socially skilled now, sometimes that middle school aged weirdo comes out, especially around someone I admire. It’s like this cool kid vs. nerd mentality all over again and I feel like I ramble and stumble on my words…even though, at other times, I am articulate and amusing. What gives?

    On the subject of stories…I have a refined story I break out when in late-night
    company, unless I’m in an unusually prudish group, in which case, why am I still out with them? It’s about my short stint in my early 20s as an anonymous foot model, when I was asked to shoot a video of my feet demolishing a Twinkie, and I did. Real life example.

    When I met my current boyfriend, we started talking about weird jobs we’d had, and I told the story, getting much laughter and interest, since I was coming across as confident and having it together. This is when the story works…if I was feeling awkward and told the story, I would come across as a total nutcase. Confidence is key.

    Anyway, the other day (over a year later) I mentioned this story again in passing, and he said, “Oh, I thought you were making that up!” I laughed.

    The lesson? Tell the truth, no matter how outlandish…IF you have confidence in the story and yourself. Even if people don’t believe it, they don’t care. People want to be entertained…and when they realize you we’re telling the absolute truth the whole time, it’s even funnier.

  35. My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is being overly sensitive to (or lack an ability to interpret) others body language. I am very observant of how others are reacting to what ever I may be talking about. For instance I am often approached by those that know my background about the latest in phone technologies. If I get a blank stare as I’m speaking toward the points I feel are important, then I tend to truncate the conversation. However, if I get a look of focus and attention I will ramble until it appears there sign of understanding based on facial expression. Often times this look is just a point of interjection to further ask or clarify the information they’re seeking.

  36. Under ordinary circumstances, I am far too passive in conversation and don’t ask enough questions. Chris obviously is friends with my boss, who will walk roughshod over any attempts at two-way communication, interrupt, and monopolize if at all possible.
    Lately, though, he has treated my sentences like minefields. Last week, he was monologuing on hair loss which, in reality, was unnoticeable. I responded ” Every time I pass the back of your head, I have to resist the urge to turn it like a doorknob, you’re so slick back there”. The look of shock on his face was priceless, as his hands went back to the crown and he started exploring his scalp. Next morning, he hollered to his wife that he had manipulated three mirrors and “it’s not bad yet”. She is still teasing him about having four hairs at the top where he once had eight.

  37. Ramit,
    I think I have 2 ‘fun-killing’ social skills. I sometimes tell boring stories about things I’m interested in, and my timing sucks.

    Example: I have the day off, but this morning as my housemate was getting ready to head off to work, I felt compelled to tell her about a book review on an anthropologist who compares our modern morays with that of primitive tribes.

    Predictable reaction: Uh, yeah (looking around for the coffee).

    Uh, well, I have gotten better at recognizing a dud and just leaving it behind without trying to breathe new life into it. But, really. Anthropology? At 7 a.m.? What was I thinking? Nobody needs to be inflicted with that before they start their day.

    Problem is, I’m capable of killing conversations at a social gathering by doing things like that. I need to learn how to join a group conversation and make it MORE interesting, not drive everyone away!

    I want to be able to add fun, fascinating bits to ongoing conversations. And I want to be able to tell appropriate stories that intrigue people, and time those stories just right. I need to be able to make the conversation about the other people, and at the same time be able to reveal positive things about who I am.

    I’d like to be the one who gives others the space to be their most fascinating selves and, at the same time, be just a little fascinating myself.

  38. Hello Ramit! You’re video couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I just finished recording my first video for a new series on my site, and…it was awkward.
    My weakness (and it’s not just when talking about business, it happens in social settings as well) is that I BLUSH. I know, it sounds adorable, but it’s totally not. My bright-white face turns crimson at the very thought of more than one face looking at me. It’s not shyness, really, and it’s not always fear…it’s just..biology maybe? It’s like my face can feel any extra pairs of eyes and turns colors on it’s own.

    I spent years avoiding public speaking (I once decided to take an F on an assignment instead of doing the public-speaking portion of it) … and I even gave up on my plan of being a French Professor (after getting my BA in French Lit!) because I would blush so hard during my TA teaching that I would get sick just anticipating it.

    The worst was at my book launch event, at an adorable little shop I was going to speak for just 15 minutes. I went to the bathroom and doused myself in cold water (no makeup can survive my blushing!), breathed deep, waited calmly to be announced and then spoke clearly and exactly what I wanted to.
    BUT – no matter how confident I felt, no matter how clearly I spoke, my face stayed bright RED throughout (all pictures of the event confirm this!). And of course, I can feel the hotness, so I get more flustered and more uncomfortable, until I just want to melt under the table.
    I’ve tried breathing, visualization, picturing everyone in their underwear (which, let’s face it, just makes me blush MORE). I meditate, so I already know how to control my breathing, but no amount of calming-down seems to help at all. I’ve experimented with different sizes of groups. I’ve learned I’m fine for a coffee date, or even a large-ish group in a casual environment, like a meal. Even when it’s an event where I’m “in charge” (I’ve held meet-ups for my students and readers all over). Podcasts are a breeze – I rock the audio interview because no one can SEE me. But talking, from a place of authority to more than 2 people, and my face lights up. (Even on video when I can’t see the other people!)
    The only experiment I’ve found that works: I talk directly to my husband (it helps if he’s in the room, but if not, I can imagine him). If I just talk to him, I can trick myself into staying my usual shade of pale. But if I’m being interviewed, I’m too “in the moment” to remove myself.

    I’m finishing my second book proposal and this time I want to pitch it to bigger publishers, but first I gotta get a handle on this face!

    • Tara,

      It’s not hopeless! I had (sometimes still do) the same problem – I get super red in brand new social interactions. When I was a TA and talked in front of 20-30 students, I didn’t think I knew what I was talking about and turned red and stammered. The more I taught, the more I knew what I was teaching about, and my job went from ‘talking in front of a bunch of people’ to teaching need-to-know-things to people that cared (otherwise they wouldn’t have shown up), and I didn’t get embarrassed or more importantly, turn red. I also aim to make my audience laugh within the first 3 sentences I speak; that gets everyone on ‘my side,’ so to speak, and turns it into a much friendlier situation. I also remind myself that it WILL turn into that friendly situation, and that mind-game helps me relax even faster. If you can practice your pitch to friends, then strangers (who don’t really matter) and still get them on your side and caring, then it’s much more like talking to your husband and less like getting grilled by strangers.

    • Hi Tara,
      I can totally relate. As a pale redhead I can turn pink & blotchy in a heartbeat. What has worked for me recently, though, is actually calling attention to it myself – something like “You’ll have to forgive my freakishly pink face, one of the many curses of us natural gingers. It happens every time I’m – insert adjective here” You can lie on the adjective & even make it ridiculous – wildly entertained by tall, dark strangers, etc.

      I tend to be the big elephant announcer in just about any room. In my experience, when you acknowledge it, you feel better & your conversation partner/audience can move on without wondering if you’re about to collapse in anaphylactic shock.

    • i had the same problem, and then a few years ago my dr recommended propranolol to deal with the physiological surge of adrenaline before public speaking situations.

      it has changed everything– i’m now a consultant and give presentations to full amphitheaters at corporate clients around the world. my biggest fear now is forgetting the propranolol!

  39. Dear Ramit:
    I have been following your blog since October and find it delightful. Here is a tip from an older woman (yes you have older women fans). If you or your male friends want to meet really nice girls learn how to ride a horse (if you don’t know already). It shows class. Women who ride (dressage, hunter/jumper, or western) are bright, confident, and in good shape. It takes a lot of smarts to be able to handle a 1300 pound animal with a flick of a finger.

  40. I struggle with having the same conversation over and over and over…

    I am a 2nd Generation owner of a family business. My office has 20 employees and many of them only have high school degrees.

    My struggle is with having the same conversation with 20 different people. I try varying my small talk but the biggest challenge is relating to them. I do not have the same problems/interests that my employees do. EVERYTHING I find funny is met with Crickets and vice versa. I have absolutely perfected my “fake laugh”.

  41. hi
    i am 22 yrs old..the problem with me is that when i try talking to stranger girls before that i get nervous, my body temperature increases and i cant talk to them…a lot of girls notice me but i never collect the courage to go and say hello…i know i look good and my english is also okay but i never feel comfortable enough to say anything in english…almost everytime i use hindi for giving an order or talking to customer care….can you suggest any solution…?

    and yes your book is great, i am thinking about getting my own credit card..:)

  42. My biggest weakness is situational speaking confidence. When I am in a situation that I fell comfortable in (around other geeks or IT professional) I can strike up a conversations at will. Now place me in an environment that is more socialites or considered high society, I can fell like pepper in a sugar bowl. I am use to the fact that in many of my social outing I will be the only person of color in the crowd but I still have trouble breaking my limiting belief that when I am in the presence of the true movers and shakers that I can contribute nothing to the rooms conversations.

  43. Extricating myself from a rambler is my greatest challenge. I was raised to be “polite” but the rambler is the being impolite by monopolizing the conversation with something I’m not interested in, or have lost interest in. But sometimes, it’s a safety net, because as long as one person is boring me, I don’t have to strike up a conversation with someone else. At a housewarming on Saturday, one conversation had worn itself out, but I still hung onto it until I saw someone else I could easily start talking with, as they were just ending a conversation. Playing it safe. Also, when someone tried to end a conversation (clumsily), I hung on so I wouldn’t have to step out and start talking to someone else. I have paid close attention to Ramit and will be testing, practicing and improving. Thank you, Ramit.

  44. My biggest weakness in social situations is making sweeping generalisations in what I think is a comedic way – for instance I’ll be talking about cities in the UK, and always end up saying “but no-one cares about Birmingham.” Naturally there’ll be someone from Birmingham there and I’ll have to indulge in some furious back-pedalling to try and regain some of my poise.

    Unfortunately as a way of trying to avoid doing this, instead of deprecating of someone’s home town, sports team or suchlike, I end up being self-deprecating and presenting myself as no more than an amiable buffoon. Granted, I become a safe target (although if my wife is present she gets frustrated with some of the looks of pity!), but it doesn’t do wonders for one’s profile.

    • Mark, I think self depracation is a very British trait. We do it to ourselves and our friends. Do people in other countries say something like “This is my best mate Andrew. He’s a complete nobhead” about someone you really like?

  45. One of my social weaknesses is that I’m not good at planning to be funny. I can be quite improvisationally funny – but when I try to tell a “canned” funny story, it rarely goes well. I decided to use this challenge to change that.

    I’m about to go on a major work trip, so I picked a travel story; it’s a topic I expect to come up a lot in the next couple of weeks. That means I will get to test it in fairly realistic situations. The story is about trying to rent an apartment overseas, only to be kicked out in the middle of the night by a furious landlady with whom I shared no languages. She literally threw me and my things into the street, and I never figured out why!

    I told the story to a colleague this morning. I did okay on the funny, though I think I can shorten the “boggled incomprehension prior to expulsion” sequence. Unfortunately, I also learned that “and I never figured out why” is not a great ending. I think I need to either make up a reason, or end the story in a different way. I might emphasize what I did afterwards, which is spend the rest of the night in the only local establishment that was open – a strip club, where they thought I was trying to get a job interview! But I’m clearly going to have to test this story more in order to get it to work.

  46. Thanks for the video! I’m looking forward to developing a few more stories.

    I have two problems — dealing with conversation monopolists (which may be fixed after your suggestions here — I need to test it) and making myself more interesting. I get supremely irritated with people that tell crappy stories and instead of bowing out of the conversation gracefully, I continue to be trapped listening to them because they don’t stop talking. I’ll test out the “pleasure talking to you!” for that.

    My worst problem is telling interesting stories about myself or otherwise being interesting to people I don’t know. My funniest and most perfected stories may be unacceptable to the other person (hang-over stories, for example), and I don’t want to instantly offend someone or make them think I’m a big alcoholic, etc. I’ve lived abroad and am a PhD student, and I do have some funny stories about other cultures and my school experiences. I don’t read people fast enough to know if they would be entertained, unless they are fellow students, so I default to mentioning little about myself and just making small talk / asking questions (usually without interrogations, thankfully). I think this leads to my first problem – unless the other person is skilled in social grace and helps me out, s/he just runs with whatever craziness comes up.

  47. Its a tie… I have the attention span of a gnat and I will try to remember what I am going to say and get so involved in what is next I’ll either forget what the conversation is about, or ill interrupt him/her and seem pushy. I also like being the center of attention. I will do all this work to make people laugh and being energetic. I often don’t know when to shut up.

  48. Ramit,

    Great post. While in my twenties I worked as a nurse. My challenge while in nursing school was how to convince a female to allow a 6’3″ 210# male nursing student to insert a cathether/suppository/or some medical device into her (imagine any orfice you want). I knew I had to establish a rapport fast with my patients in order to put both of us at ease, and for me to provide compassionate care to the patient.

    To overcome the obstacle (however real or perceived I made it out to be) I would take a minute to glance at the patient’s demographic facesheet in the front of the medical chart. In less than a minute, I knew where they lived, marital status, religion/spiritual belief, payor type, place of employment, and the relationship of their emergency contact. This information was gold!

    I was able to gain instant rapport because I was armed with information that I could use in conversations with the patient and their friends/family at bedside. The results were having my name mentioned in countless thank you letters from patients after discharge; having patient’s family/friends invite me to meals at restaurants; and (when I was single) having patients set-up dates with their single daughters/nieces/sisters, etc.

    Fast-forward in my life…I no longer provide direct patient care, but from my past experience I have gained the ability to scan an unfamiliar person’s attire, environment, body language, and speech within seconds to determine which one of my polished stories or opening introductions will be more likely to work best. Does it always work? Absolutely not! But as Ramit has stressed in other posts, you have to test to determine what works. And of course, practice new skills.

    Best wishes to all

  49. My biggest social weakness is in the place where small talk moves into trust building. I can meet people at an event or on a date. I can have the 10 minute, 30 minute, hour long conversations. I can chat with strangers. What I have a really hard time doing is converting these strangers from acquaintances to friends. This has been especially problematic at work. I come off as smart and friendly at first but somewhere that connection breaks and I am seen as weird and snobby.

    A good example of when this falls apart was at my last contracting gig. When I first started I had to admit that I don’t own a TV. I might stream The Daily Show but that is about all I ever watch even on the computer. At first this was met with pretty standard TV guilt “I spend way too much time watching TV, but my boyfriend could never live without his ESPN.” For a few weeks exploring other interests was OK, but then conversation for the group was did you see The Voice? Game of Thrones? The Football game? I was busy doing other things-yoga, hula hooping, sewing, baking, reading, rock climbing, volunteering, learning something new. Now I am a snob.

    There has to be some way that I come off that is snobby at this point in time. I don’t think I am judging others when we have to interact daily, but have little in common outside of the office. This has cost me my last job. I wasn’t hired on because I didn’t fit in after 5 months. I would love your help on this.

  50. Great post! “If I just work hard, they’ll recognize me.” was one of my shortcomings during the early part of my career. I was oblivious to the fact a game was being played all around me; and I wasn’t even suited up for it! Something I wish I would have discovered earlier but I’m glad I’ve cleared it up.

    Approaching strangers and starting conversations is the same stuff the PUA community is all about. It’s really about getting out of your comfort zone. And while some will say PUA’s are simply geeks with techniques with the negs, card tricks and routines, it’s a decent starting point. Toastmaster’s will also help you do this albeit in a more professional setting.

    I think at the same time you’re getting more social you need to be working on your inner game: confidence, self-esteem and being the person you want to be.

    (For a good read about the PUA community check out Neil Strauss’s entertaining book The Game.)

  51. Great post and video!

    I feel like I’ve been guilty of every weakness you described at one time or another, but my worst one is the conversation killer you demonstrated with the student at about the 20-minute mark. Someone will ask me a question like, “What do you do?” or “How long have you been doing that?” and I’ll respond just like he did, and BOOM, it’s like a lead weight landed on the conversation. Sometimes, they’re polite and say it was nice talking with you, and sometimes I get hit with the box-out (a third party comes over, they begin talking, a group forms, and you’re outside the circle before you know what hit you).

    Building rapport, like you showed when the roles were reversed, is a HUGE deal and easy to screw up if you’re not paying attention. I’ve been working at that over the last few months, and I’m finally starting to feel less socially awkward and more aware of myself and of people I’m talking with.

  52. Thanks for providing that great video – I got many good ideas that I am looking forward to begin trying this week. I have a few issues that I struggle with. I feel pretty comfortable walking up to strangers and starting conversations. I can ask initial questions and then respond with meaningful follow-ups. My first challenge then comes with taking it to a more personal level. I don’t feel like I’m a good story teller and I don’t like to share personal things about me – part of it is that I don’t think I’m that interesting and part is that I hate hearing myself tell stories. So I tend to listen lots and not share too much. And this doesn’t really work for me, but I didn’t have any ideas what else to do. I like the idea of having a toolbox of go-to stories that are rehearsed. I’m going to ask my husband tonight what good or interesting stories he thinks I have then start to refine then.

    Then I have a challenge taking it from small talk to the next level. Since I’m not confident sharing personal information, I don’t know how to get more personal with people. So I feel like to have many surface acquaintences, but don’t know what to do with them to develop friendships or deeper professional relationships.

    Finally, I want to work on the close. I like your closing techniques to be able to move on to the next conversation, but also want to figure out how to make the close and get the contact info (phone number, email etc) and set up making that next interaction with the person that I just met. I almost never follow up with the people I meet cause I don’t know what to do next.

    I’ve known for awhile that to be more successful personally and professionally I need to work on my social skills. These are great tips and techniques and I look forward to learning (and trying and testing) more of them. And it would be great to have a chance to participate in professional training in NY. I think that getting some one on one help and SEEING what I’m doing wrong and fixing it right them could make a world of difference.

  53. My biggest weakness is that I get anxious and lose confidence. As a result, I become kind of withdrawn, I don’t get expressive, and I have a hard time telling stories. When I do tell a story, I lack confidence and have a hard time keeping it interesting. If I talk to anyone important, it gets even worse.

    I’ve noticed that it’s more like a type of performance anxiety. When I’m with really close friends and not being self-conscious, I open up, I talk freely, I get expressive, and I tell good stories.

    To counter it I try deep breathing when I’m in the conversation and I feel myself getting nervous. I find it definitely helps, but I still feel closed up. I also find just forcing myself to talk to more people and practicing helps. Recently I’ve been working with visualizing and seeing myself have engaging conversations. I only started about a week ago, so I’m not sure what it’s done for me, but I do feel more confident directly after the visualization exercise.

  54. Ramito,
    This sounds lame, but I actually have that ability to connect with people to where they fall in love and won’t leave me alone. My friends give me so much shit for it. I’m that friend they don’t want to introduce to their significant other too soon, because they might fall for me too.
    There’s a story they love to tell where we were all down at the Jersey shore and going to one of those obnoxious Jersey shore bars. I was walking in the door, tripped and dropped everything, almost wiping out. They said every guy was on his feet, trying to help. I don’t remember it happening this way, but they swear it’s true.
    It’s not that I’m especially good-looking or anything, it’s just this mysterious thing for me. I think Kramer called it Kavorka (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=kavorka). But the thing is I have no idea how I do it or what I’m doing to make this happen. I just feel this basic need to connect with whoever I’m talking to – I want them to feel good about themselves and I want them to like me.

    The problem with this is that since I don’t really know what I’m doing – and I haven’t given this ability much thought until recently – is that I don’t know how to apply it to everyone. Sometimes there are situations and people that intimidate me and I don’t know how to bring out the superhero power to make everything all right. I just shut down and become a stumbling, mumbling mess. Urgh. I usually shut down at crucial times, like any time I feel like I’m attempting a “sale” and anytime I’ve ever had to negotiate pay and work situations.

    I guess it boils down to not having enough self-confidence and loving the ability to make someone else feel better.

    This is where more training and understanding would be so helpful.

    Thanks Ramit! (BTW, I know you’re not Ramito, but I like the intrigue it adds, so wanted to throw it atcha.)

  55. In social situations I tend to tailor my message, stories, jokes, questions to the audience. My biggest weakness is in a group of all new people – for some reason my brain tries to calculate the overlapping interests of each individual so that what I say will be relevant/funny/memorable/inoffensive to everyone.

    Of course, not knowing anyone’s interests yet means I often start by listening (which makes me come off as quiet).

    So my biggest weakness can be put into the question, “How can I be more socially proactive in a group of new people, or even better, how can I approach a group of strangers already talking amongst themselves?”

    • Christian K.N. Link to this comment

      I, too, need to learn how to approach groups of people. Especially in the second or third day of an event, when most people seem to have found their cliques.

      (One tactic I’ve used is to avoid the problem by showing up before everyone else, so I’m there when small groups form. Then I meet people in those groups who can later introduce me to other groups later. But that’s not always doable.)

      Also, a variant of the same: At events like seminars and conferences, how do I get a word with the speaker/host afterward, when s/he’s surrounded by all the most eager socializers in the room?

  56. Thanks for another very informative lesson! I used to be really shy and quiet and was very awkward when it came to conversing with new people or people I don’t know very well. I’ve really grown over the years and don’t have much trouble talking to random people in a social setting. However, I think I am so anxious because of how shy I used to be and so afraid of awkward silences, that I tend to talk and talk and talk about anything and nothing to the point that I may overwhelm people and just make myself look silly. This is worst when I am talking to someone one on one because there is only one other person (compared to many in a group) to fill possible awkward silences. I’d like to feel less anxious (or not anxious at all) when talking to people one on one and not feel like I have diarrhea of the mouth! I think taking control of this would also make it easier to make friends on my own (I have gotten close to the majority of my friends by meeting them through other people but our one-on-one relationships are somewhat weak because of this).

  57. I’m a field biologist and like Teddy there are tons of funny things that have happened whilst working in the jungle or the tundra, probably comparable to his experiences in West Africa. However, usually the anecdotes work best by keeping them short and that can be challenging indeed. Still, I think it’s possible to distill it down to the funny parts (even though for me the whole experience was interesting of course). Also, not all of them are appropriate for for example job interviews. Like the one when my 10 year younger field assistant started to hit on me while we were out camping. It started with him asking me “How do you say:’You have beautiful eyes’ in your language?” and ended with him asking me to join him in his sleeping bag since he was so cold, to which I replied I had a bag full of sweaters he was welcome to use.

    I’ve noticed that whenever I share this anecdote it really depends on what tone I use whether people think it’s funny or when they are grossed out. It was quite a light-hearted experience for me, at no point I felt uncomfortable. When I replied to him to pick one of my sweaters if he was so cold, I was actually quite amused at the time with my own quick reply to his come on (I know, it’s awful to laugh at your own jokes, but I sometimes do). So I’ve noticed it’s not only the length of the anecdote, also the tone in which I present it determines the reaction I get. I need to, sort of, have the listener know that it was a funny situation, not a threatening one. I am actually not sure how I do that exactly, I’ll pay attention the next time I tell it and get some laughs.

    So I don’t tell this story at a job interview, but I have shared it at conferences during drinks with colleagues, when talking about funny things that happen during work. And many people relate to it (My former PhD supervisor told me a while ago actually that he used this anecdote in his creative writing class, much to my entertainment).

  58. nice post ramit,
    i feel you have a new course coming soon :)

    looks like you have been studying a lot of pua and want to introduce this to your audience with your own twist.

  59. Ramit,

    Thanks for the post, very insightful and eye opening.

    My biggest social weakness is using fillers such as ‘umm’ and ‘like’. This drives my wife crazy and has become one of her pet peeves.

    I have noticed that I do it all the time. Whether boring my wife with details about the corporate world or providing my supervisor with an update on my project status. I’ve tried recording myself and noticed that I do not do it on camera, but then I am also more awkward when I intentionally try not to use fillers. I think I use them as a crutch to get from one topic to the next.

    I’ve noticed that when I use fillers people do not take me as seriously. I’ve noticed that if I am going into an interview, no matter how prepared I am, I start using fillers out of nervousness.

    Look forward to hearing back from you.

    Thanks,
    Rusty

  60. A major weakness to my social skill set, that I have only recently discovered, is my tendency to speak in a low monotone voice. My entire life I have always had the perception (false perception) that to stay calm and non-reactive to any situation is a major plus. It wasn’t until recently that I have realized this is a negative because I lack the ability to show emotion.

    Two great examples:
    1.) At my office they needed a voice over for a health campaign in which they show grotesque images to scare people away from using a certain product. The regular guy was sick, so I volunteered to give it a try (thinking hey! I have a great voice, I’ll know this out of the park!). After plugging my voice into the video and hearing it from over the speakers it became very apparent that my voice, even when I’m trying to be emotive, is Depressing as HELL! Ironically, now when ever they need a voice to scare the shit out of audiences, I am the man they call.

    2.) A more recent example that happened last night. I was hanging out with this girl I recently met who has excellent social skills. She is great at expressing her mood and emotions. When I asked her about how her about her passions and interests she responded in a brilliant display of emotion and gestures. If you put her on mute and only watched her body language, her message would still be just as powerful. Naturally when she was done she asked me the same thing. And despite having plenty of great and exciting things to say, how I communicated them resulted in one of my favorite responses I have ever heard from a person. Girl, “Steve you sound like Death.” Hilarious, brutally honest and self-admittedly true.

    In every interaction now I am now experimenting with the pitch and tonality of my voice. I figure if I feel that I am speaking awkwardly loud and high, I am in-fact speaking how I should be speaking due to my nature of constantly speaking low and calmly.

  61. I talked to a co-worker this morning about my ongoing battle with small woodland creatures. I’m a city-slicker now working in the nature-loving south, so this tends to work pretty well in this area. I just need a bird flying around somewhere, Hitchcock/horror movie mention, or nature reference to get started.

    This morning, my coworker & I met for coffee. Birds wandering around the street in the unseasonably warm weather, so I told her the very real story of how I had pigeons fly directly into my head on no less than 3 separate occasions while living in New York City. Don’t know if it’s my coloring – I’m a ginger – and some kind of rampant pigeon color-blindness, but 1 time actually left me bleeding from the head. That’s the force we’re talking about with which these birds flew directly into my head.

    Sometimes the story will evolve into how, since that experience, I’ve had to fight the very real desire to punt a pigeon. I’m a former soccer player and – for 1 season – a football placekicker, and here are all these fat little footballs wondering around our streets already teed up. There’s also the story of how my ample bosom saved the life of a squirrel how fell onto my chest after falling out of a tree, but that is generally reserved for more bar-level conversations.

    Didn’t get that far this morning. Co-worker laughed & seemed to be genuinely amused with my pigeon-induced injuries. I’m working on cultivating a kooky/ brilliant thing at my peer level that may or may not be working for me, but tends to captivate people’s attention. Turn the kooky way down for C-class folks.

  62. Ramit:
    I may be older than your typical reader, but I have a great appreciation for educated people and their advice. Your blog and writings are very smart and timely for today’s work environment and job seekers. I wish there had been someone like you providing this information when I graduated from college.

    PS. My suggestion of learning to ride was meant to be in good fun. It is also another way to network with senior level people in companies. You would be surprised to know how many corporate folks are at a barn not only for themselves but also supporting their kids.

  63. My biggest weakness is sober interaction. Luckily I am rarely sober.

  64. Hey Ramit,

    Great video and a great opportunity for everyone.

    My main social hang up would have to be consistency. Some times I can be on top of my game. Whether it’s befriending every one at a party, being able to charm the most beautiful girl in the room or closing a business deal.

    The frustrating thing is that my less confident past will still rear it’s head from time to time, which is a massive pain. I’m desperate for a way to finally let go of these social vices, despite them making me the guy I am today.

    A quick example:

    When at university a few years back I managed to charm a very beautiful girl at a bar who at the time I perceived to be way out of my league (note: this was thankfully not aided by alcohol, merely being ‘on form’).

    A few days later I nervously fumbled through a class presentation (I suck at public speaking) and subsequently fumbled through the process of asking one of my classmates on a date after the lecture.

    My life seems defined by these polar extremes of social awkwardness and social aptitude. Through professional guidance I’d relish the chance to remove the weaknesses and focus on fostering the positives.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  65. Thanks for the great video. It made me think a lot about my social strengths and weaknesses.

    My biggest challenge in social or networking situations is storytelling. I compensate for this by being a great listener and finding ways keep the conversation going by encouraging the other person to talk more. I’m a pro at asking relevant questions that flatter people and get them to open up or embellish. But when it comes my turn to talk, I rarely contribute anything memorable about myself. I know how to make people feel interesting, but I don’t know to be interesting in return.

    I’m so horrible at storytelling, I can’t even craft a specific story to share with you about a time this has happened as compelling evidence of my problem.

    I know a narrative makes everything more meaningful (your other materials have helped me learn this!), so I’m not just striving to be better at telling crazy, laugh-out-loud stories. I want to know how to talk about myself, my experience, my career, or just why I’m at XYZ event, in a way that makes a lasting impression and makes people want to know more.

    I’m good at one-liners (a compelling job title, a quick joke), but if I have to talk for more than 20 seconds or so, I instinctively shift the attention back to the other person. The larger problem is an inability to share, which can stunt relationships.

    I know social-skills training would help me because I need assistance looking at my life through the lens of a narrative and building a story tool belt. Lastly, it’d give me the opportunity to practice and get honest feedback so I can be confident talking about myself in a way that others will find interesting and valuable.

  66. I told one of my friends about how I had to explain to my British boss that saying he wanted to go to a swingers club with his wife didn’t exactly mean what he thought it meant. Friend laughed. I’ve shared this with non-uptight coworkers and they loved it as well. Have to admit it took a couple of tries “testing” out the words to make it funny but not over the top.

  67. Biggest weakness: Not being able to say my point in short amount of time.

    When: The situation can be social or professional.

    What happens: I start to talk, thinking ALL the details are important, but they are not. The people that know me the best are willing to go for the ride, they stay engaged or just calmly watch, maybe they are thinking of their grocery list, but I can’t tell. The folks that don’t know me, those faces changes are a lot clearer to me, I can see them drift from interested to what is this girl trying to say?

    What have I tried: When I see their faces change I end the story as fast as possible and then ask them a question. It feels like a save, the blood rushes to my head and I feel embarrassed…again. It’s harder to do then the old way, where I would keep going and beat myself up later. I don’t often tell the same stories over and over, so I haven’t “tested” them in order to change my ways.

    What do I want to learn: How to, at anytime…any time, be able to deduct my point/story into the shortest and strongest delivery. My mind is so cloudy, What is it that I really want to say? Why am I talking? Should I be talking?

    Thanks for reading ;-)

  68. The bait was too good. I’m de-lurking for this post.
    So, here’s a comment in two parts, first the *hopefully* engaging story, then my biggest weakness when it comes to social skills.

    I was a physics major in college, and attended an internship at Los Alamos National Lab. Myself and a few other interns all went on a 2 day hike and got lost. Long story short, we ran out of water, had to climb out of a canyon, guess at our way back, and call the park rangers for help, since a couple people got too dehydrated to make it all the way back. Everyone ended up ok in the end, and we all learned some valuable lessons.
    I think it’s a good story because there are any number of parts that can lead into a reciprocal story from the person I’m talking to. My delivery sucks, because I tend to belabor each little point, until I’ve turned an interesting story into something boring. People usually start out really engaged, but by the time I get to the porous nature of the volcanic rock in the area, and why that made climbing out of the canyon such a risk, they look ready to run. I plan to practice this story, as you suggest, and refine it to the point that it remains interesting throughout, without all the extra detail.

    I took some of your earlier advice, and asked my wife about my weakest social skill. I learned that what I thought I was weakest at (bludgeoning people with my ideas), was really just a part of a larger pattern of bad behavior. Conversations with me often end up with me trying to convince the other person of something. (That’s bad, but it gets worse.) My wife describes my method as being like a mathematical proof, delivered in such a way that the other person can’t get a word in edgewise. I just steamroll forward, from one logical point to the next, pushing inexorably toward my conclusion. Afterward, having received no disagreement from the other person, I become frustrated when I see that they are not using the idea that I “convinced” them of. During my lecture, I completely miss any points where the other person may disagree, not understand what I’m saying, or just not be interested. They don’t offer disagreement with my conclusion, not because they agree, but because I’ve already lost them, and they don’t have any point on which to specifically disagree. Additionally, they probably see disagreeing as just an invitation for me to talk more, and that’s probably the last thing they want.

  69. I think my biggest problem is engaging in small talk. I’m more to-the-point and never liked the “how are you” greeting because, as you say, it’s a script and knowing that makes it seem insincere to me. But from what you’re saying, it sounds like that it’s just part of the game and I need to start playing.

    Just the other night at a party, this nice girl was giving me the usual small talk questions, asking me what I do and where I went to school, trying to get to know me and strike up a conversation. But, me being awkward, I was simply just answering the questions, not reciprocating, and letting her drive the conversation. I didn’t realize I was being totally selfish and not asking her about herself until later. I felt like I was saying, “sure I’ll answer your silly questions, little girl, but I’m not interested in you.” When in fact, it would have been beneficial to reciprocate, I would have actually enjoyed the conversation, I could have a new friend, we could’ve had something interesting in common, and we both wouldn’t have felt awkward afterwards. Looking back on it, I would have loved to get to know her, but for some reason I was totally awkward. I think this blog post alone will go a long way to helping that, you gave some great pointers in outlining the system of conversation.

    Another thing is I have a mild stutter when I get nervous or am talking to a stranger. I think part of the problem is I get self-consious about that and just want to stop talking, but I think it all comes down to confidence and how comfortable I am talking to new people. So I think if I can improve that, I can finally lift this barrier that’s been holding me down for so long.

    • Oh I also tend not to make eye contact when talking to someone. I do it when listening, but I feel like I’m looking all over the place while talking. I’m not sure how important it is, but I notice most people tend to keep eye contact while talking to me.

  70. Theodore Glave Link to this comment

    The story I go to pretty often is about wearing just a t shirt in the dead of winter during my freshman year of college (upstate NY). I’m Jamaican and the sun was shining and where I’m from if the sun is out it means warm weather.

    It’s always a good little story when cultural differences, or misconceptions come up, almost anything since it’s basically a how was the weather where you went to school story.

    Most recently, I wrapped it in with a conversation about hockey with a visiting customer I was giving a tour to. My college has a really good hockey team that he was familiar with. So he knew, the school, knew about the Game of Thrones weather, cue story.

  71. My biggest weakness in social situations is that I tend to giggle/laugh in a conversation even when something isn’t necessarily all that funny. I’ll use it as a way to fill silence and/or buy myself more time while I think of the next thing to say during an awkward pause. I also think I heard somewhere a long time ago that people like other people who respond positively to the things they say by laughing and smiling. Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t mean laughing at everything.

    I realized how counterproductive it was when I was in high school, and I actually overheard a guy (who didn’t know I could hear him, I was in the next room) say something about me at a party. He said, “I’m going to kill myself if I have to hear Ami laugh one more time”.

    Something that for me, was/is a nervous habit used while trying to be MORE engaging actually ended up making someone’s ears bleed. The sad thing is, I had really liked him as a person and looked up to him for his comedic timing and great social skills.

    The other issue with the giggling is that it makes me seem much younger than I am. I’m in my late twenties, but already look super young (Asian genes), so often I don’t think I get taken very seriously when I laugh so much.

    I had a meeting with a set of potential clients, and in my nervousness, it was like a hyena machine gun going off. Needless to say, they ended up going with someone else.

    The laughing is something that I’m now hyper aware of, but admittedly a still a daily struggle to correct.

    • Hyena machine gun is hilarious. You’ve got to find a way to use that line in everyday conversation!

  72. My biggest social stumbling block is reading people and gauging the subtext of peoples reactions.

    For example, I have desk space at a clients office and a second client on the floor above. I have keys to the building so if I was meeting either client I would just let my self into the building. The up stairs client said something about me sneaking up on people, and I wrote it off as just a strang thing to say. The next time I met him I noticed he said the same thing. For our last meeting, I buzzed his office from down stairs, having figured out that my client prefered this.

    I think I mid other, more important sub texts and I would like to improve this as I can’t improve the reactions to my social skills if I’m missing the reaction.

  73. Ramit!

    I think my biggest weakness is the small talk and leading the conversation. I don’t think I can lead the conversation in a way to give the message I want to give.

    Lately I have gotten a few different interviews for jobs closer to what I consider a ‘dream job’. I feel like I have a great set of skills when I am able to be all technical and talk engineering… But that hasn’t seemed to matter.

    It has happened more than once when I got feedback from companies where I interview that they are looking for someone ‘with just a little more experience’. One place described me as, “Oh you are just a young engineer who is still looking for what they want to do.”

    So now I am thinking, “Crap! Is that really the message that I am giving to people?” What other messages am I giving?

    The part where you talk about ‘jumping the gun’ in conversations but then you slowed down… I don’t catch myself and slow down when I am nervous or excited.

    I need help changing the message that I am giving people. I need to come off as experienced when I am in interviews and I want to be someone people like to talk to in other situations.

  74. There is one thing though that I find hard, which relates to so much more than just small talk as well, but it also happens in small talk. I have a tendency sometimes to become clownish in small talk and self-deprecating. “Look at me and my silly weird things, ahah let’s all have a laugh at me”. I know it’s not productive to portray myself like that, but I find that in situation where I feel uncomfortable, I try to entertain the others at my own expense. I just throw myself under the bus, without actually having to.

    I’ve noticed it w while ago and still find it hard not to resort to it in uncomfortable situations.

  75. Piyush Kayastha Link to this comment

    My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is “running out of things to say”. I used to attend a few different “meetups” in NYC and it was never an issue approaching any person to start a conversation. In fact, I love talking to people. But, more often than not, I have found that I either hogged the conversation to the point there is nothing left for me to say or the conversation just kinda dries out and withers away.

    Example:
    me: Hi, I’m PK, nice to meet you.
    x: Hi, I’m Y, nice to meet you too. So what do you do?
    me: I am bla bla, doing bla bla and yourself?
    x: I do bla bla and its bla
    me: ok, that’s great. What brings you here?
    x: I am here because…
    etc

    Anyway, I feel the main takeaway from today’s lesson was that I didn’t have a way of “ending a conversation politely”. And I say this because I feel I might have let the conversation ramble on until there is nothing left for any of us to say and we just kinda awkwardly wave good bye and slowly slink away.

  76. I’ll say one problem I don’t have is starting a conversation. I used to have this problem, but it got knocked out of me at the beginning of college for a few reasons. The first is that I was just required to meet so many new people so quickly. The second is that, later in that first year, my friends used to dare me to say weird things to random people. I’m a competitive guy, so I went along with it.

    Mostly they had me saying awful pickup lines. Even though this predictably caused me to crash and burn frequently, the experience definitely gave me the confidence to start conversations. After all, if I can start a conversation with “Hagrid’s not the only giant on campus, if you know what I mean,” I’m pretty confident that I can start one with a simple introduction.

    However, once those conversations are started I can just go off. Generally the conversation will stagnate somewhat after the initial questions are answered, at which point I’ll try to keep it alive. Unfortunately my attempt at keeping it alive usually involves talking at length about fitness or my psychology major, topics that don’t always interest people.

    There are circumstances in which this doesn’t happen. When I’m meeting someone, or several new people, in the presence of my friends, I can usually count on them to tell one of several embarrassing stories about me (the nature of the stories would make it weird if I told them myself). I’m no longer really embarrassed by these stories, but people always get a kick out of them.

    The other common circumstance is that people will jokingly ask me to “analyze them” after finding out I’m a psych major. This used to annoy me, but I found a way to turn it to my advantage. There are a lot of generic statements about personality that actually seem very specific, so I’ll point out something about what they’ve said or their appearance and lightheartedly tie into one of these statements (a complementary one). As long as I can pull off a joking tone this is pretty effective.

    However, even in these solutions I remain the topic of discussion. I am quite inept at getting people to talk about themselves and equally inept at beginning a conversation not about fitness or psychology. The video has provided me with two tools I can’t wait to use. The first is the Story Box; all I have to do there is come up with some stock stories not about my core two interests. The second is the technique of changing the subject. My experience with approaching people has shown me that sometimes how you say something is more important than what you actually say. Now if I want to change the subject in the manner demonstrated, all I’ll have to do is look around and pick something to talk about. I look forward to trying this out.

  77. My weakness is telling stories, and what I found interesting from your video is how you learned to adjust your explanation of IWT from 30 minutes to 20 seconds. I feel it’s important to get this right to preserve the cadence of the conversation. I see this as slightly different from rambling, as rambling to me comes with lack of direction, or the ability to express oneself.

    I am working on my 30 second and 90 second “commercials” and interviewing as I get closer to completing my degree.

  78. I have an internal script that I’m better on paper than I am in person, so mine is a confidence issue. There is some truth to this, as I worked in journalism for a number of years and have found that my written communication often helps me get my foot in the door with people.
    But, once I get in front of people, I have a tough time thinking on my feet. When I am writing, I have ample time to really think about what I want to say and how I want to say it.
    I’m working on this by trying to perfect a story and by making it a point to talk to one new person each day. The video you supplied is excellent, and I plan to make use of those pointers, as well.

  79. Ramit,

    I have two major difficulties when it comes to social interactions. One is a fear of initiating a conversation (I’m the one looking busy on my phone), and the second is nervously laughing at myself. I recently quit my fulltime job and committed to what was previously a micro business. The necessity of attending several networking events each month has forced me to become slightly more comfortable starting conversations with strangers. However, since the networking events I attend are generally full of older people, I haven’t successfully transfered this skill towards the younger crowd I see when I am out with friends or at a party. If someone else ventures to start a conversation, I can usually help move it along well enough. But the moment I get flustered, I begin nervously laughing. It’s terrible. I’ve tried so many other techniques to fill pauses in the conversation, but have not been able to break my nervous laugher habit.

    I’m well aware of the importance social skills play in both the business and social worlds, and have improved tremendously. I am just not yet oozing the charisma that can elevate my life to the next level.

  80. My biggest weakness (from a long list of weaknesses) is my fear of being vulnerable in the conversation to build trust. Any time I’m in a social situation I tense up with anxiety and my mind runs amuck. This makes other people feel ackward and uncomfortable.

    I’ve tried techniques to try and overcome this. I tried sharing something intimate about myself, or pushing through the fear, even spending $1000′s on seminars to help with this to no avail. I know I need to re-frame but in the moment I just can’t seem to do it.

  81. My biggest social weakness is that I tend to irritate other people and I’m not sure why. I tend to avoid talking to other people in general because of this. When I do talk to other people I usually just listen while they talk. I prefer to avoid confrontational topics but it seems to take almost no time at all for me to say something that actually seems to bring out the other person’s ire over something that seems trivial to me. I have learned from this and I tend to never give any opinion over anything until I heard the other person’s opinion. Even trying this approach I still tend to piss people off.

    Another common thing is they misunderstand what I’m saying and want to adamantly argue against me when I’m actually AGREEING with them. I usually just drop the conversation at this point. I don’t know what I did to signal disagreement to them when I am agreeing, but they seem to be strongly believing that I disagree.

    The other main type of conversations I have with strangers involves some guy just talking non-stop, usually about something that doesn’t interest me, and not letting me say anything, change topic, or leave. These can go on over an hour as I am terrible at ending a conversation. They always end either awkwardly or with the guy thinking I was more interested in what he was saying than I really was.

    I’ve actually had people tell me that I don’t converse normally. I tend to allow a pause after the other person says something before I speak. This is a part of why ramblers seem to really love talking to me forever. I think I do this because I hate being cut off when I’m talking (happens to me all the time) so I don’t want to do it to someone else. But at the same time, they’ll cut me off constantly.

    I do try to improve my social skills. I’ve always disliked the “I’ll never change anything about myself because people should like me for me” mentality. Maybe I should try talking on front of a mirror or video for a while and see if I can read my own body language and voice intonations. I’ve noticed that whenever I’m talking I tend to not know what to do with my hands. Letting my arms hang limply looks awkward and weird. Hand on hips can signal cockiness or aggressiveness. Arms folded says, “Stop talking to me!” Hand fidgeting looks either bored or nervous. I seem to only know why some body language is bad, but not what would be the “correct” thing to do.

    • This is a pretty toxic combination, and I can understand why you’d be hesitant to engage with people if you irritate them and aren’t sure why. Luckily, there are a LOT of things you can do to find out and fix this. Check out the video above. I think it would be really useful for you to practice some of these social skills. When you improve — even a little — the difference in your life will be striking.

    • In response to PT about not knowing why people think you are disagreeing with them: I have had this problem multiple times with my boyfriend. Because I obviously know him well and because he used to be a debater and is good at constructing and deconstructing arguments, I asked him why he thought I was disagreeing with him. It turns out it was because I started my response to his statement with the word “But”, which signaled to him that I was disagreeing with his point. What I was actually trying to do was finish his sentence for him and/or add a clause to his previous sentence, but apparently the conversation only flowed that way in my head, not his.

    • Hey PT,
      I found your post really interesting and reminded me of some tips which I thought could help you out. I practiced these until I was comfortable without the pressure of a social situation. You might want to try a couple of things, some might work for you with a bit of practice:
      1) there are a couple of positions that look relaxed and get your hands “out of the way” without looking aggressive or weird. Test them out in the mirror (full length if you can) so you know they will work for you when you are feeling uncomfortable and in need of them. Then you don’t have to worry if you are just looking even more stupid.
      a) you can hold one wrist in the other hand – take a breath in, and breathe out making sure you relax your elbows so they aren’t stiff by your side. Your feet should be relaxed and slightly facing out – comfortable.
      b) There is a really comfortable position that is the resting position in some styles of martial arts – check this in the mirror to make sure you’ve got it right. Stand with your feet at your shoulder width – parallel or very slightly faced in…but not too much – other people should not really notice they are facing in, it is so slight. This may feel a little weird at first. Hold your hands behind your back. Again relax into it, try not to stand stiffly or with your chest out too much – once you get used to the feet feeling slightly weird, you can stand like this literally for hours.This is a very open, solid position and can make you feel a more confident. The feet position is strange to start with but not aggressive like if you hold your hands behind your back with your feet out – try it and see what I mean.
      2) try listening to other peoples conversations and particularly when and how long they pause for. You may inadvertently be inviting them to interrupt you. Pauses signify that you can interrupt – it is not something we normally concentrate on but are important cues in our conversations and interestingly differ across cultures. I learnt this while studying linguistics where we watched this video of different cultures (all English speaking) having different conversations. People will pause even mid-sentence for slightly longer than normal which is a sub-conscious cue the the other person takes that they can interrupt. (Of course there are people out there who will talk over everyone.) If you listen to other peoples conversations and how often they get interrupted or not, you may be able to observe small components of their conversation style that you can either mimic or practice not doing. I noticed that some people who are smooth conversationalists often have slightly (and I mean only slightly) shorter pauses – so I guess others find it harder to interrupt.

      Another thing I find helps me is to try and think of how I can help the person I’m talking to. This a) stops me from thinking about myself and how I might goof up b) makes me listen intently to the person and c) stops me talking about myself too much. Sometimes I can think of someone that might be a useful connection to them but I have to listen to what they have to say and ask questions about them to find out enough informaiton to maybe think of how I can help them. I don’t mean being creepy either – I don’t throw myself at them or give unsolicited advice – I just ask if they know “such and such” He’s working on a project/works for X company/is interested in this topic that may have some synergies for you.
      Anyway – good luck. Practice will make it easier

  82. Heinlein stated that ‘Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together’. I think that small talk works the same way.

  83. I am so grateful that you are doing this series, Ramit. As an introvert who is constantly trying to figure out what seems to come naturally to so many, your non-generic advice is pure gold.

    I answered the question of what is most challenging to me now on the other post, so I thought I’d share one of the stories in my tool box that I haven’t used much recently:

    Back in 2004, Sir Ridley Scott threatened to sue me.

    I run the official site for an actor friend who was cast in one of the director’s films. As a matter of course, when he lands a new project, I prepare a dossier containing all the information I can find about it. Usually I send it to him first, then once all the paperwork is signed and his participation is announced, the dossier gets posted on his site. I’ve never had a problem with this before, but apparently Ridley is quite secretive about his projects. When the dossier went live with all the info I’d pulled from the web, it took one business day for his lawyers to get ahold of me and demand that it be removed. I guess they didn’t realize how much was out there until it was all gathered in one place. There was even talk of my friend violating his non-disclosure agreement (he didn’t).

    My friend told me to fight it and that he would talk to the man himself once he arrived on set, but it seemed wiser to me to acquiesce to their demands and protect his job. In the end, I was able to build on that incident and work with the studio to promote the movie, organize my friend’s attendance at the world premiere, set up some interviews for him, and use the lessons learned to better support my friend’s career.

  84. My biggest weakness is not having a default story toolbox and practicing that toolbox to engage groups of people.

    When one-on-one, I’m incredibly comfortable and have no problem connecting and having resonance with a person but when it comes to group dynamics, it’s super easy for me to ‘fade into the background’ as friends who are better at entertaining the group and are more comfortable with it tell stories that make them memorable. I find myself being ‘passed over’ socially because I don’t put myself out there.

    I’ve been told often that I’m soft-spoken and always seemed to have a problem with projecting my voice especially in loud environments, being a bit monotone and not very animated at times but especially so in groups.

    I’ve been testing and tweaking an engaging story since the holidays in 1-on-1 settings (and just once in a group setting) as a response to “how was the break?”. While the story is long as hell, I’ve yet to have had a negative response to it and they stay engaged from start to finish.

    Here we go!

    ———–
    “So, I was a drug dealer in Mexico for about 5 minutes.

    [Interest Piqued / Eyes Pop / !!! ]

    Yeah. So I was flying home for Christmas and instead of taking the regular lay over in Miami route, I saw another itinerary that’d take me to Cancun, Mexico for 5 hours, then Panama City, Panama for a night then to Kingston, Jamaica.

    [Conversation may split off in multiple directions from here later on]

    Apparently in Mexico, they care a lot more about drugs than they do bombs. I get to the gate and as I’m showing my ticket, they’ve got dogs searching my bags. Okay, cool, no problem. But then as I step through the gate, there’s another set of dogs searching my bags again. I’m like, okay…cuz I snuck some contraband in my bags in the space of 5 seconds but all right cool.

    That’s when things get kinda weird.

    I step outside and don’t see my plane anywhere. I’m pretty damn sure I stepped out the right gate and as I’m scanning the tarmac I see my plane like a block away.

    That’s weird…

    I look around to see if there’s any other passengers that were coming out the gate to play follow the leader but I don’t see anyone so I start walking to my plane. On my way there I show my ticket stub to a couple of airport employees just to make sure and they all gesture to the my airline and so I keep walking. I climb the stairs, show the stewardess my ticket and she motions for me to board the craft. Just as I’m sitting down, she comes to me and says:

    “Excuse me sir, the pilot would like to have a word with you”.
    “Okay sure thing.”
    But then the pilot comes back himself and says:
    “Excuse me sir, could you grab your things and step outside for just a second?”
    “…sure…is everything okay?”
    “Absolutely sir. Are those all your bags?”
    “Yeah…”

    IT’S NEVER OKAY WHEN THE PILOT ASKS YOU TO STEP OFF THE PLANE. At this point I’m trying to figure WTF is going on.

    “Sir…how did you get on the plane?”
    “…I walked from the gate…climbed the stairs…and took my seat…”
    “Ok. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but it’s customary to have your bags searched before getting on the plane.”

    I’m thinking to myself…uhhh the dogs searched my bags twice already but yeah the LAST thing I need is to spend my a night in jail in Mexico. I’m just trying to get home for Christmas.

    “Oh yeah sure thing no problem”
    “Would you mind waiting at the bottom of the stairs with an attendant? They’ll be along shortly to search your bags. Again, sorry for the inconvenience”
    “Yeah it’s no problem”

    The attendant takes my boarding pass and starts speaking the most rapid spanish I’ve ever heard in my life. Sidenote: My spanish is limited to “donde esta el bano” and “yo no hablo castellano muy bien.”

    Eventually, this truck pulls up and out come 3 guard dogs, 4 security guards and 1 middle aged lady. 2 of the security guards flank me, take my bags and throw them in the middle of the tarmac, the dogs swarm them all while the lady starts shouting at me in spanish.

    “———————-”
    “Yo no hablo castellano muy bien. Tu habla Ingles?”
    Shit. There goes 50% of my Spanish :-(.
    “Sir!! HOW DID YOU GET ON THE PLANE??”

    The guards have me surrounded at a slight distance with the ‘ready to jump in if we need to’ vibe. Not good. :-(

    “I LEFT THE GATE, WALKED UP THESE STAIRS AND WENT TO MY SEAT”
    At this point I feel like I’m in a bad B grade movie with a terrible ending.
    “What Gate?!”
    “Gate 13!! Right over there!”
    “Let me see your boarding pass and passport!”
    “The attendant that was on the radio took my boarding pass but here’s my JAMAICAN passport and with my connecting flight FROM PANAMA to Jamaica”

    While this is happening the dogs back off from my bags after not finding anything. I’m still surrounded but the lady’s tone softens just a bit.

    “Sir, why didn’t you take the shuttle?”
    “What shuttle?”
    “The shuttle from the gate to the plane”
    Hmph.
    “This is my first time in Cancun and ever other airport either has a jetway walking directly onto the plane or you walk directly up the stairs onto the plane.”
    “Sorry about the inconvenience sir. You can take your bags and board now”
    Uhhhh how about having a SIGN that says WAIT FOR SHUTTLE or an attendant to tell someone?? I hold my tongue. I just wanna go home. For extra fun, while this scene is playing out, all the other passengers are boarding and watching with wonderful amazement.

    I’m the last person on the plane and
    everyone
    is
    tense
    as
    —-

    Yeah. I go to my seat and a guy in his 50′s or 60′s was sitting in my seat.

    “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t think you were coming back”
    “Yeah, me either”
    He laughs.
    “So what happened?”
    I tell him the shuttle mishap and as I’m doing it you can see like the whole plane leaaaaaanning in to find out WTF was going on. I’ve got nooo problem with this cuz this is a 4 hour flight and last thing I need is to get tackled by someone on my way to the bathroom”

    ———

    I only tested this story once in a group setting and it went over pretty well but I noticed my ‘flow’ would get thrown off some by having multiple people interject with questions and comments along the way. While it’s great because I know they’re interested it also let me know I’m really not experienced with ‘working groups’. My momentum and delivery is still tons better one-on-one. I wanna get better at this.

    I realized since starting Toastmasters last week and getting ready to work on my first speech that I’ve got *tons* of engaging stories but I really need to:

    1. Have a story telling toolbox instead of hoping I randomly remember one of the good ones.
    2. Work on my delivery overall.
    3. Get comfortable delivering in groups.

    I need to get good at small talk too.

  85. In conversation with someone they made a bit of a verbal slip and were quite embarrassed, I told them not to worry, and said it could be worse. I quickly related a story of the time someone unexpectedly asked me what the lyrics to God Save the Queen were (seriously, why would someone ask that??). I completely unthinkingly responded by quoting the Sex Pistols song – I had quoted a few lines before I realised what I was doing!! The person who had asked was looking at me with a mix of confusion and horror, and I was torn between embarrassment and a fit of giggling. Relating the story of my embarrassing moment made them laugh, relax, and the conversation resumed its flow.

    My biggest weakness is probably being succinct – I may have something interesting to convey, but I get caught up in details that are irrelevant to the listener, and so lose their attention. I’d love to be able to do what you describe and convey my message in 9 minutes, or 20 seconds as appropriate.

  86. Ramit your posts are great!

    I recently have been socially lacking when it comes to keeping a conversation going and developing it into an actual connection or memorable experience. I’ve been working at improving myself overall for almost a year, and I have gone from being mostly inept at approaching social conversations to being able to go in and start a conversation. Hell I’ve even been getting good at keeping eye contact more often than not(confidence seems to be key).
    Sometimes it goes alright, and other times it bombs into a spiral of awkward silence that goes no where until hiding seems like the best option. Once it starts going downhill I a hard time salvaging the experience.
    When I can get to the end of the conversation (which is getting more frequent) my conversion rate for creating into a memorable connection usually isn’t to good. The next time I see that person who I thought was a good talk they say sometime similar to “ohh yeah what was you name again, you seem familiar but….?”
    Please help.

  87. about 2 hours ago

    I was at the office and adoption pop up as a topic.

    my story went something like this,

    ” We went down a hill on our way to Target, this lady came up to us and offered us her baby….”

    true story. I thought that the story would not get an reaction but I spent an hour at lunch talking to co-workers(mostly girls….yes.) after that story and they were amazed, and did not stop asking me questions…

  88. My weakness when it comes to social situations is listening and analyzing body language. I am thinking so hard about what I could ask next if they don’t lead the conversation that I never elaborate on what they say. It’s never really a conversation, it’s me asking 4 or 5 scripted generic questions. When I fly through those I start standing around awkwardly or slowly backing away. I am constantly worrying so much about my own body language that I never read theirs, so I have no idea whether or not they are engaged in the conversation. Working in a pharmacy, interacting with people is a part of my daily activities, and being in pharmacy school networking is a huge part of my future. I am worried I won’t be able to make a good impression, even though once you get to know me I am a very personable guy. Thanks for reading!

  89. I’d say that my biggest weakness is talking about myself too much. What tends to happen, when I’m not careful, is that I tell stories about what is going on in my career activities, scientific research, or my political activities and then, when caught up in the “drama” which the other conversant doesn’t care about, forget to pay attention for the cues when they are just done with it.

    What I have figured out that I need to be doing within conversations (and I’m getting better at this) is to watch the eyes. Besides pivoting the conversation to a different topic more often, I find that the more eye contact I make the better I know WHEN to move on. It is similar to what you described in the video, Ramit, although I’m not particularly great yet at taking in ALL of the body language. For now, I’m focused on the eyes.

    Thanks for an excellent lesson.

  90. Ramit,
    Interesting topic to pick stories. I guess the one thing I’m wondering is which stories do you find to be the ones that pique the most interest. I did just try it with a co-worker and I know realize that I do need to think out how the whole story goes and what exactly is the point of why I’m sharing it. So that begs the question of what you (and all of your research) show as being the most useful type of story – happy, funny, sad, work-related, etc. I know for job interviews I always have five different stories with a situation and how I resolved it.

    As for me personally, I am an introvert who listens to my inner scripts which states that I’m not interesting. I am slowly working on putting myself out there and did have the conversation with the complete stranger this weekend – and found a new type of position and how to apply for it.

    I may not always follow through with everything you suggest we do, but I definitely am trying. You are a different type of conscience – also known as Jiminy Cricket.

  91. I used to have a major problem with social anxiety. I would engage or be engaged by someone and watch myself fall apart. Stumbling over words, nervous laugh, awkward silences. This would continue until they tapped out and we had the “1000 yard stare reset”- pivot 15 degrees to the left, retreat to silence, avoid all eye contact and desperately think of a plausible reason to escape this personal hell.

    It got pretty ridiculous as I grew up and started going after real jobs. My attempt to correct the behavior was passive at first. I tried to make peace with the silence, accepting it with confidence instead of railing against it and getting overly stressed. It probably wasn’t the best process ( former co-workers have described me as most likely to show up with a weapon) but it kept me sane and gave me the leeway to throw out non-committal tests and gauge peoples reactions. What was once awkward and painful became quiet, confident, learning experiences. For example I learned that saying to someone “How are you?” triggered pre-programmed responses and was even ignored at times. On the other hand asking “How’s your day going?” making sure to get eye contact and smiling gets me at least a few sentences. Simple stuff but it’s working and I am still learning, and continue to fish for more techniques and strategies.

    My biggest success was with an older guy at the office who was quiet and I didn’t know much about but met at the coffee machine at the same time practically every day. I decided to go into the next encounter and learn how many children / grandchildren he had. I used one of my common starters, threw out some information about my weekend making sure to include stuff about my kids hoping he would ante up as well. When I finally asked how his weekend went he opened up and told me about his weekend and his family. Mission accomplished.

    I am still at the “comfortable in the silence” stage around new people, but a little more outgoing and much less creepy. I am excited to use the story toolkit in these situations. Once you started going into it I realized I use it with close friends all of the time but hardly ever with strangers (maybe drunk at a party or motivated out of panic).

  92. My biggest weakness is trying to figure out who I am and what I’m about, and successfully projecting that to others. Let me give you some background:

    I was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago (Leroy Brown was a neighbor), with a life of abundant tragedies following every step of the way. My method of survival was to become a super-nerd and bury my nose in books, become a top student, and avoid eye contact at all costs. This is probably the reason I survived my childhood, but I still got the crap beat out of me by a group of tough girls after school one day. I was bullied, abused, my mother left me with an alcoholic dad, and my little brother was murdered. Needless to say, though I was an over-achiever and graduated with the highest honors my university bestows on any graduating senior, I was destined to end up in a shit marriage…

    …and that I did. After leaving a predominantly male university (where I had my pick of potential suitors), I met my future husband at a thrasher bar in downtown Chicago. The two decades that followed found me in a severely controlled lifestyle with no social interactions allowed other than church activities four times a week for countless hours (not saying church is bad, people), but I was essentially told what to think, eat, pray, wear, and do. For all intents and purposes, I was in a cultish/ abusive relationship.

    Nearly five years ago, I ejected from that plane before it crashed and burned. The seemingly endless courtroom drama ensues, and let me tell you – not being able to confidently communicate my needs and expectations to attornies has had terrible consequences on my life.

    Social outings were anathema during my marriage, so now I seek interaction with others, yearning to meet people, daring to make friends, and have high hopes to even someday date again (can you imagine?).

    I’ve said all of that to sum up my biggest weakness:

    I don’t know how to be myself, I don’t know who that even is, my confidence was annihilated, I’m extremely distrustful and cautious of others, I’ve experienced all these “heavy” losses and pain in my life, so how do I lighten up and “mix it up” socially? I don’t quite have the same toolbox of stories to draw from as others. My toolbox is black and full of grim and macabre “stories,” not really the kinda thing you want to toss out at a meet-and-greet.

    I’ve got huge dreams and goals, and am very intelligent, skilled, and a hard worker. I read your emails and watch your videos, and I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW that I desperately need to learn some social skills to carry me through situations; to put me in front of the right people; to help me to effectively communicate without stumbling over my words, feeling self-conscious or stupid; and to simply make it possible for me to have a conversation with that person in the grocery store checkout line, or park.

    I’m not a whiner. I don’t need anybody’s sympathy. I’m a very strong woman, and I’m also very self-aware. Right now, I’m a single mother with several children and no family help. I homeschooled my kids for a decade, so haven’t worked outside of the house since 2001.

    What I do know about myself is that I have what it takes to be successful. BUT, I also know I could really, really, really use some help in the social arena.

  93. Hey Ramit,
    I have two issues, but I will discuss the major one. This major issue (which I have seldom been able to get past), is something I need major improvement on because in the long run this will hurt me in my business life…

    First impressions are big and at the firm I work at I’m meeting new people on a weekly basis. Clients, friends of clients, and prospective clients. For some reason when I start talking to these people I become incredibly self conscious and I start to notice that my body temperature rises to the point where I feel sweaty and a clamminess on my forehead (not profusely sweating or nasty). I’m typically thinking “crap, I hope no one notices me turning flush or shiny”. I’m constantly worried that my “tail” is showing and that I may be a slight bit uncomfortable. Recently, to combat this, I started wearing glasses to mask myself (just regular seeing glasses, nothing fancy). It is almost like a security blanket now… where I feel like there is a screen between me and that person I’m talking too… You know, kind of like Bono… but not as cool.

    Even still, the awkwardness comes through and it is a tough hurdle for me. My wife comes with me to a lot of these events and she’ll pull me aside and say “whats the matter with you, act normal!” or “honey, stop offering the trey passed bacon-wrapped-dates to they jewish clients”… Ah, why did my brain just turn off…. I can’t figure out why I can’t be normal here. I either can’t muster up more to say, or I ramble and then oops, my foot is on the tray passed plate and I just put it in my mouth. Again, not all the time, but enough to throw me off and chip at the old self-conscious stone even more. That doubt pill is haunting.

    I feel that I need to take advantage of me being a good looking guy though. Most women find me attractive (not being cocky here, just some insight into the situation) which should help me with my confidence… So in regular social settings, non-work, I don’t wear my seeing glasses (unless I absolutely can’t see, like a power-point presentation from the back of the room) and I make a lot of eye-contact and then I connect with people. Simple, right? I also notice that in the work settings, once I have gotten comfortable (if I get comfortable) I end up taking my glasses off and now we are buddies… For some reason people move in closer at that point, as if the veil has been lifted off my face and they want to discover more. But again, it is rare to get to this comfort level and I’d like to get there more often.

    I’m guessing that this self-conscious nature is due to my recent career change and the unsureness that I have with these people gets me to start over-thinking things. When I tell myself “Just act like you don’t give a shit and just have a good time, don’t worry about anything here tonight”, it takes the pressure off me, I do better… But then one of the partners of the firm will come over to me and tell me “make sure you talk to X, he is really influential” or “He is our 2nd biggest client, get to know him”, or “this guy can really help your career”…. Then I’m thinking, “CRAP! You need to be normal Eric! Go and talk to that guy and be normal!” With the glasses on I’m hoping they don’t see the nervousness, that they don’t see ME. I’ve been able to redeem myself when I would meet with these influential characters a second and third time, but that first time is rough.

    I also have prospects come to my place of business and sometimes just sitting in my own chair at my desk I talk too much. I’m to the point where I want to set up cameras in my office to see how bad I really am with these people and the kind of impression I am making. Now I do very good work and thats why people come to me and I’ve been able to survive so far… But I feel like I am missing the boat when I’m not stepping up the to social plate. I have recorded myself in meetings with the partners at the firm, and I usually can barely listen to the play-back because I think I sound so awful… Maybe that self-consciousness coming out, but I do think I sound terrible. When I’m bullshitting around I’m great, but when it is business I stumble a lot… I don’t get it.

    Help me Obi-Ramit Kenobi… You’re my only hope.

    The #2 issue is being stuck talking to one person all night at a party/event/social setting. I’ll notice that 45 minutes have passed and I’m not meeting other people and at the end of the night I feel that I have not been productive enough. I’m going to try your scripts from your video above, the directness is a new take for me and I want to be able to get out and get away without offending the other person. Maybe there is a subconscious side that realizes I have a person captivated, so go with it and I purposely don’t move on… damit….

    Best,
    Eric

  94. I think my biggest weakness is making the right impression. I think I’m pretty good at telling stories, making conversation, making jokes, etc but I find sometimes people mis-read my intentions.
    For example, I want to come off as professional at a networking event but I seem to young and unfocused, or I am talking to friends casually about work and they glaze over because its too high level for a party, or my least favorite, I am trying to be friendly or funny at a bar but guys think its flirting or that I’m trying to make a move.
    I have tried to test different things, but sometimes its hard to tell how people are reading/judging you without asking them. Unfortunately, its not considered ok to interrupt a conversation to say “No, I want you to think I’m hire-able, not ‘just like your niece” or “Wait, you don’t think I’m hitting on you, do you?”

  95. Here’s my social issue:

    I’ve found that my social skills in a one-on-one situation is generally not bad (we can all improve, of course), and I could use a little more practice in the approach, but I get stumped when I’m in groups.

    Here’s the scenario – I go to a party/event/gathering where I don’t know anybody, and people have already congregated into tight little circles of conversation. I never know how to get into those circles, so I generally wind up standing on the outside awkwardly, hoping that one of them will see me and welcome me in. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

    And sometimes I’m so intimidated by the prospect that I just look around and find someone that’s standing by themselves (usually staring down at their phone) and engage them. But the problem with that is that generally those people are fairly socially awkward themselves and the conversation becomes intolerable really quickly, and then I have trouble getting out of it and find myself stuck with probably the last person in the room I really want to be talking to or seen with (I’ll use the “friends from out of town” thing next time).

    One time I tried to do the “Hey, don’t I know you from blahblah…” thing with one of the people in the group in an attempt to break my way into the circle, but it totally failed miserably.

    I should note that once I can get into a circle, usually because I know one person who’s in it, I’m great. Probably better than one-on-one. It’s just the breaking in part that has always tripped me up.

    BTW: to share my “Toolbox” story – I was once in a ghost hunting group, and I work that into conversations whenever I can – it always gets a great reaction and I’ve got countless interesting stories to tell about it and people always have a ton of questions.

  96. I’ve also tried talking about the other person… It works if you can be genuine but I seem to have trouble being genuine… Maybe because I’m so anxious most of the time? Or maybe I should steer the conversation- its all so overwhelming.

  97. Okay here we go, my biggest weakness is allowing myself to become actually connected with the person I am speaking with on a deeper level. I can talk, I can listen, and I can make people laugh but I resist taking the steps to make the social connection any stronger. This inevitably leads me to spew out some non-committal statement, “I don’t have time”, “I will never do that again,” I learned my lesson the hard way”, etc. which then serves to kill any possible opportunity to move forward and truly grow a relationship. In other words I self-sabotage any chances of garnering relationship benefits for personal or business futures.

  98. My biggest social skills problem is translating my social skills that I have outside of the workplace with my friends and family (outgoing, sense of humor, tell tons of stories) into useable interaction with those that I deal with in the workplace. My go to story to make people laugh is telling them about the time I was on the Bozo the Clown show and got called down to play the bucket game (where you throw a ping pong ball into 6 different buckets to win awesome prizes – at least for a 7 yeat old). I have told this story hundreds of times. I act it all out and even have a great punch line figured out and it gets laughs every time at parties. I even have people ask me to tell the story again even though they’ve heard it already. But trying to take this story (or other funny stories) and make it useable in the world of finance just doesn’t work. I get blank stares and maybe a few pity laughs. It’s like they’re too buttoned up to take time to listen to a funny story. Most of the people that I encounter on a daily basis are 15-20 years older than me so I have a hard time relating my funny stories to them. This often makes me feel dull because I just stop trying to be funny and fit in even though I know having a sense of humor is a great ice breaker. How do I take my social skills with my peers and use them in an office setting?

  99. I don’t know what happens to me. I’ve been a teacher for a few years and when I talk to a 90 students class I feel I’m great at telling stories and grabing people’s attention. Otherwise, I just can’t talk to a few people and tell stories in a way they demonstrate to like the conversation. People many times ignore what I say and make me feel as if I were irrelevant to the conversation.
    I’ve tried a lot of techniques and approaches but they don’t work well unless the other person has interests very similar to mine, or if I can someway be useful to him/her. Some books and videos have been very useful to help me, but I feel as I haven’t got to the point I want yet.
    Nowadays I’m starting a new carreer as a life coach. I have a dream of enchanting my clients and I want to be able to teach them how to deal with people. As a coach, I fell I should have strong social skills. I’d like to have an enchantment, some kind of magnetism that would attract people to me. Why do I think it’s so much easier when I talk to a large audience? People see me as a leader when I’m talking to an auditory, but I can’t get the same receptivity when I talk to 1 to 5 people.

  100. My job is 90% interviews so it may seem like i would need to have awesome social skills. Well I have gotten to the point where i go to these interviews and i feel like i do really well, and i think i actually do. But then when i am hanging out with friends or going to parties I cant talk to ANYONE. Its like i have gotten so accustomed to interviewing that i have actually lost all my normal social skills and its just like an auto response. I sometimes find myself kind of talking out of body and i think its getting worse.

    Last week i was at a party (that I wanted to go to and was excited about) But about 20 minutes in I kind of woke up and realized i had just been following her around and probably seemed like a big weirdo. We ended up leaving early.

  101. My greatest weakness in socializing is somewhat opposite of one thing you continuously mention Ramit….I over-smile. I know that may sound silly, but I genuinely enjoy social interaction so much, that I smile ear to ear and am so sincerely interested in what people have to share, that they constantly think I am interested in something more than friendship. It sucks because I’ve left numerous jobs due to the boss making a sexual offer that always involves a raise. YUCK. I don’t even realize I am being flirtatious, but obviously am if this happened more than once.

    My other option tends to be becoming a total sassy bitch! Finding that middle ground has been challenging and kept me out of the social scene for a while. I also notice myself shying away from powerhouse kind of bosses because I don’t feel like I am able to be witty enough to get myself around the hitting on, or the total bitch role….sometimes being a bitch gets perceived as flirtation as well!

    Example: Went to a bar with a good friend I hadn’t seen in years. Currently, I’m living in a small mountain town, so we were the only ones there, until Mr. Dirtbag comes in and ends up sitting right beside me. Mr. Dirtbag starts totally interrupting us and pouring out details of his personal life I really don’t care to know, like his daughter started taking drugs, and he cheated on his wife. I am being as polite as possible at first, telling him people go through hard times and all that, “nice chatting” kinda stuff…not working, and so I tell the guy straight up, if you weren’t such an asswhole these things wouldn’t happen. He just keeps it coming. After many “It’s been decent chatting” attempts, I finally ask him please stop interrupting my friend and I because I am here to visit with him and don’t care to know any more of your personal life. He keeps on with it, and so I take my friends hand so we can dance. Mr. Dirtbag kinda shuts up for a minute, then has to come over and tell me that he hopes I open my heart up again some day because I am so cold.

    OK…do I take that personally? Not at all. Clearly dude has his own stuff going on. My point of the story and hope for myself: To have those middle ground words to field ANY conversation and get the results I desire.

  102. As a new business owner, I am struggling with the networking side of things. Recently I attended a Small Business seminar in my area, and yes, I was the one sitting alone with my iphone pretending to be busy. Three people actually attempted to have a conversation with me, but we quickly fell into the awkward silence stage :( I just draw a blank when it comes to knowing what to say to other business people. And yet, working in customer service, I have no issues with making conversation with customers.

  103. I’m a nutritionist and I speak in front of small audiences and one-on-one with people for a living. There’s a lot of great information here that confirms that I’m doing some things right and that I definitely have room to improve.

    I find that my biggest social challenge, both at work and in social situations, is that I get so caught up in trying to relay specific INFORMATION that I’m no longer actually COMMUNICATING and I just end up spewing facts at people. I come away from a lot of conversations wondering if anyone was able to take away anything from what I said.

  104. My biggest social weakness is … oh man, there are so many. I’m terrified of starting conversations with strangers. It takes so much energy and I’m afraid of bombing and being embarrassed. The interesting thing is that when I’m “on stage” (e.g. public speaking or a theater performance) I’m not worried about embarrassment at all. I have no problem with social interactions where it’s pre-agreed that I’m the center of attention, like if I’m at a party and someone says “Hey Chris tell us all that story about …” or “Show us that cool trick where you …”. That fires me up. My problems are in starting and maintaining 1-on-1 conversations with strangers at parties, bars, etc.

    I have trouble feeling natural in these situations. I think so much about what I should be thinking and how I should be acting that I don’t react genuinely to the conversation. I feel like the guy in this comic: http://xkcd.com/1089/ I’m worried about my eye contact and body language. I start to become self-conscious about my posture, which just stiffens me up more. I know I must not look engaged, but when I actively try to become engaged, it just makes things worse. I need help learning how to be natural and enjoy these conversations, without freaking myself out at the meta level. I suspect the answer is “Practice.”

  105. Ramit,

    Great video!

    My issue has never been with the small talk or conversations. My mother taught me pretty early in life how to “pass the conversation ball” back and forth.

    My issue is the second and third time I meet someone. I can’t remember their name, I can’t remember what we talked about the last time. I get insanely awkward because I am embarrassed to ask them again. These are people that I should know by now, I recognize their face, but I can’t put it with a name.

    If I could get over this hump, I would be pretty damn good. What to do?

    Cheers,
    Jim

  106. Ramit,

    Fantastic post and video. I’m really glad you’re delving into the social skills. It’s an important fundamental that is way too often overlooked. It’s great that you’re getting into the nitty-gritty. You’re stating: What, why, how. It’s informative and I think a lot of people will greatly benefit from this. With that, here’s my own story:

    One of my “Go to” stories has to do with an experience traveling around China for a month on a nearly unlimited budget; exploring what I wanted to explore, learning some of the language, and living like a local. Fantastic time, I highly recommend it. The story is applicable in a lot of situations. In a social scene I try to make the story brief but engaging and always try to lead it into getting the other person/people to talk about their adventures (or desire to adventure – it’s a great conversation string).

    One time after telling this story in a group at a frat party (I was really trying to hit on this beautiful blonde girl) I kept getting the idea that she just wasn’t feeling it. She smiled a lot, was SMOKIN’ hot, and was wearing a rather provocative red skirt. I kept thinking to myself: “This gal has to be the adventurous type!”. After some pressing I eventually discovered that she was a fundamentalist right wing super conservative christian who believed that the rest of the world was full of heathens and that travel not in the name of our lord and savior was a sin… suffice it to say she wasn’t really my type. The conversation just went south from there – I’d already built a lot of rapport and the girl just started going off on religious conservative tangent after religious conservative tangent. The group quickly dissipated and I was left alone to face this hottie turned succubus’s religious crusade to save my soul. Which leads right into my biggest social skills problem: I’m TERRIBLE at leaving conversations on a good note when I need to. I can keep a conversation lively and engaging forever. But when it’s time to go, it’s time go. Maybe I’m afraid to offend, maybe I’m secretly scared of being judged. Who knows. But I’m just uncomfortable when it comes to extricating myself from a conversation… even if there is a blonde siren secretly trying to save my heathen adventurous soul from the worldly temptations of the devil (Oh please). I won’t tell you how I ended the conversation in great detail… let’s leave it at: maniacal plan to start speaking devil worship whilst spilling a drink on her. Yes, use your imagination because it gets close to the truth.

    Anyway, I’ll have to practice your technique for leaving a conversation. Perhaps my problem is that verbally I state a need to leave but physically show that I’m still fully engaged with the conversation… I never thought of it that way! As for the winning prize – that would be awesome. (I’m in NY anyway).

    Best,

    Seth

  107. Hey Ramit,

    Thanks for that insightful post!
    Here goes my comment: Walking up to strangers and starting a conversation (men/female alike) is no big deal to me. As a librarian, I deal with dozens of people every day, so the first part is not a problem.
    However, I noticed that many guys and gals think that I am hitting on them (they wish, hahah), just because I am trying to be friendly. Don´t get me wrong, I don´t do flirty (at least not at work), but I think that deep down, so many folks are just so socially inept they can´t tell the difference between general friendliness and something else. I would LOVE to get the social skills training…maybe it´s ME who´s sending the wrong messages?

    Cheers,
    F.

  108. I am far to intense and high strung for my own good! I’m underdressed, I talk way to much, and speak far to fast for most to keep up! I will admit this right off the bat!

    I have never had an issue approaching people in public settings (especially girls, since mentioning to them I take portraits builds interest almost immediately). When I tell people about what I do, there is that core interest, but then things start to drag…

    When I feel this drag (most important: awkward discomfort), I move on, but then get stuck…at this point, I feel cornered, and usually I ask a question…

    “what are you passionate about?” Or “Seen any good movies lately”…they seem so fake to ask though right? Then they usually say “I don’t know” or “no”…

    maybe it puts of them on the spot to much? To forward? I think it is because it looks like I made THEM nervous.

    That’s being said, what I do have trouble with? Keeping conversation flowing, small talk…WHAT DO I SAY? How can I still keep my passionate intense ways, but tone it down a bit in a more manly, mature way? I get awkward and confused, I think I sound boring, my body language is all over the place! I don’t know how to move on!

    (What can I say? I have Italian roots, I like to talk with my hands and my body 99% of the time)

  109. I think that my biggest weakness is a fear of being perceived as boring and unentertaining. This results in that I hold back on taking the lead in conversations when I met new groups of people, especially when I think they have higher status than me. I dont believe my story telling skills are anywhere near good enough to hold a groups attention.

  110. Hi Ramit,

    I’ve been consistently socially awkward when it comes to speaking with higher-ups, or the boss of my boss. In the back of my mind, I know these people have some sort of power over me (or at least that’s my frame of thinking). An example from the other day was at work, I had the opportunity to help out an exec who was in plain clothes and unknown to me at the time. I assisted him just like I would with anyone else who comes into the establishment (read: I work in retail, I know, I know, loser…for now). After finding everything he needed, he introduces himself, shakes my hand and asks for my name. Instant paralysis of my brain. I utter a, “uh, Scott…nice to meet you.” My mind was racing with so many options for a smooth, “Hey, notice me and rescue me from this downward spiral of a career”-type response that I just left it at that. I bumped into him again, later, and had another chance to make small-talk, but all I could muster was another name-reminder and handshake. It. Felt. Awful.

    But your video today was a great reminder that it doesn’t just happen, it takes practice, and I need to get to work immediately.

    Thanks Ramit,

    Fellow weirdo, Scott G

  111. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest social weakness is not knowing when to leave a conversation. I am a time-monopolizer. This happens for multiple reasons.

    One, I really want to get on the good side of someone I’m talking to, and don’t know when to simply leave. For example, last thursday I was at a bar with some friends, and I spotted a girl who I’ve thought is gorgeous since freshman year of college (Its now 4 years later). After my buddy forced me to approach her group, I had a pretty decent conversation with them for a while. But I think I stayed too long, and someone in the group made an excuse about how the group had to “go take a shot with a friend.” This dude used a exit line on me. Maybe if I had been decent enough to leave earlier, I would have had a chance with the girl later on.

    Other times I find myself stuck in conversations because I don’t feel I’d have the nuts to go talk to other people once i exited that conversation. This happened to me at a bar a few months ago. I found myself alone for a few minutes, and someone came up to talk to me. He then continued to talk to me for at least an hour. I didn’t want to talk to him any more after about minute 15, but I was just so insecure from having been alone for those few minutes that I didn’t muster up the nuts to leave the conversation.

    To fix this, I’ve been trying to use lines like “It’s been nice catching up, I’ll see you around” or “It was a pleasure meeting you, hopefully I’ll see you another time.” But I don’t think I’ve quite optimized my exit times yet.

    • Really glad to see you’re aware of this. Now, create several different tactics of improving and work through them all, noting which works the best. Ironically, most people who have poor social skills don’t recognize their skills are poor.

  112. My biggest weakness is lacking subtlety and always giving unwanted suggestions to others. Even if I am “right”, my “tactics” are terrible when it comes to interacting with people, and I oftentimes come off as a narcissist jerk. I don’t like to beat around the bush either and your message on avoiding small-talk hit home. It is like a dance that must be practiced and rehearsed to get the most out of interactions.

    I recently read Goulston’s book: Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone and it is a fantastic read. I applied several of the tactics in the book including asking people to give me a self-assessment and I was basically correct in my being overbearing, non-subtle, and narcissistic. I did the “reverse empathy jolt” with my friend basically saying the reasons why my friend would be disappointed in me, and acknowledging my own faults. Boy was he surprised when I didn’t go off on one of my typical rants about what’s wrong with him and what he needs to change to get his life in order!

    Also, just 2 days ago on Saturday, I went to a local meetup for a ski club. I focused on being more interested than interesting and really tried hard to sit back and listen to others, instead of being overbearing. I’d say it went extremely well, and I even met someone who potentially has a spot for me in her company and it seemed like a very good fit. This would not have happened had I been my typical, overbearing self. Goulston’s book is absolutely amazing and helped me get over some of my social inadequacies. Social skills are a huge key to success in all aspects of life! Thanks for the post, Ramit, and the kick in the rear to get my (social) life in order! :)

  113. I have a hard time keeping my conversation concise and to the point. This could be emails or just chatting with someone at a bar.

  114. The social skill mistake I tend to make is I give people too much information. I tend to ramble on about things that don’t really matter to them at least not yet. I work in the recruiting business for a direct sales company and need to focus more on my potential recruits “why” this business could work for them. I would like to hone my my skills to talk more effectively with them to connect their “why” to our business so they will join my team. As a result this will grow my business.

    Thank you in advance for your consideration for this incredible opportunity.

    Sincerely,
    Piper

  115. I don’t ramble, I tend to talk too much and too fast. I’ve been conscious of this because of following you (and others) though, and have absolutely made significant strides in this. I’ve started taking a water bottle with me where I go and when I catch myself talking too quickly I take a drink and settle down my mind for about 5 seconds.

    Here’s a scenario of what used to happen/happens sometimes: I tell a story, and it’s a pretty good story where I get significant reactions but I tell it too fast. The punch line gets missed. Half the group doesn’t hear the good parts of the story, or even the point of the story. My entire purpose of opening my mouth is null and void because it’s too easy to move on. That’s NOT memorable. That’s a freakin’ PROBLEM.

    I’m super excited to test a story with a group of people now. I’m about to leave for the gym and I’m going to find someone I know and tell a story about this weekend and gauge their reactions. I’ll keep it slow and engaging and continue to work on inflection, volume, and quality of my story. Here we go!

  116. My biggest weakness is failing to balance being open about sharing my own stories, insights, etc with asking questions and listening to the other person. I overcame my shyness by learning to ask good questions and listen deeply to the other person. This has taken me a long way from where I started socially, but I seem to have gone a little too far with this strategy. Even my close friends feel like it’s hard to get to know me despite the fact that they “tell me everything.” I’d like to learn the right way to self-disclose, to share my stories & perspective, and to flow easily back-and-forth between sharing of myself and inviting the other person to share. Thanks Ramit for all you do and for this opportunity.

  117. Approaching hot women! I used to be very scared of doing this because I was afraid of how I would feel if I got rejected and I thought I would get punched in the face by a jealous guy. Fear of approaching was hard to get over initially, but after a few times being rejected, I began to realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    After I got over this, I developed a fear of running out of things to say on dates. I handled this fear by simply sharing with a girl exactly what I was thinking in the moment. Very simply, I’d meet a girl in front of the park, or in some bar or restaurant or whatever, and if I felt nervous, I’d tell her: “I’m feeling a little nervous! How are you feeling?” Girls were ALWAYS very forgiving as long as I was honest and open with them. In fact, I noticed that a lot of girls were also feeling a little nervous. And when we acknowledged how we both felt, the feelings would disappear and it was like we both had something in common. Ironically we connected on the very point of our mutual nervousness. If I felt like I might run out of things to say, and shared it with her, she would help me carry the conversation 100% of the time.

    Additionally, the whole honest communication thing translated into other facets of being successful on dates with women. For example, when she did something that made me feel like I wanted to kiss her, I would interrupt her with a smile and blurt “Wait, I’m sorry, what did are you even talking about? All I can think about is kissing you!” Not once was that phrase met with a slap to the face.

  118. While I don’t believe I am awkward in normal day to day interactions, my issues normally surface at events or parties. I believe the root of it is the fact that I have trouble starting conversations and that I am not a good story teller. I also have a complex that I am not good at small talk, which I am sure, keeps me from even trying. As a result, I gravitate towards people I already know and am comfortable and don’t push myself.

  119. Comment 118 & your replied you would cover that later this month…

    How about in New York! I’m the small town girl that moved to LA and for 7 years worked to find that balance…and never did due to lack of tools and Neil Strauss trainees out there…now back to the small town, single mom, and SUPER READY to step every aspect of my life up! NO more Naive nice girl next door, balance the bitchy, TEACH ME TO BE RICH!

    HAHAHA :) I’M READY!

  120. 2nd post. I gave my issue earlier. Following is an interesting obsesrvation of someone else in a social setting. For years I’ve observed folks intentionally, seeing what works and doesn’t for others and learning from it. Don’t have Ramit’s education, knowledge and expertise in behavioural paychology, but have always found it interesting. At open house, got into conversation with lady who told me about the business she bought 2 months ago which is in her basement, doomed to fail fairly quickly, I think. First, I didnt think she was all that interested in her business. Told me the name and gave me a reason to remember the name. (Good.) She’s limping along trying to create a website. The kicker: “If you ever need a gift basket,” she says to me, “give me a call.” Of course, I said I would. She didn’t give me a card or a phone number. Her website isn’t up. And I definitely didn’t give her my contact info. Big mistake I see often in business, folks sitting back expecting customers to come knocking down their door to buy from them. A wasted opportunity for her, as I’m sure she didn’t do any differently with the other many folks that were there.

  121. Great video! I think I have a few main issues. 1.self confidence. I feel like I notice people looking me up and down and then I get all caught up in wondering if I have something in my teeth or my hair went crazy or something, that the person has made some snap judgements and and then I lose all train of thought. Then I go to a mirror, realize there was nothing glaring, and feel like an idiot. 2. In a similar vein, if I feel like the conversation is “important or strategic” I microanalyze everything I want to say, and get all jumbled up and say something stupid about the weather, even though I know my stuff. 3. I get annoyed at strategic/important conversations or “having” to make small talk (probably b/c it gets awkward for me!) and feel like the whole thing is BS and they’ll see through that anyway so just forget it (hello defense mechanism!). I like how even though you have tips/tricks, you still do seem genuine with all of it. I’d be interested in mastering that for sure! Fakeness is an instant turnoff for me and derails things quickly. But I know that I am smart, attractive, and have good things to say deep down. It would be great to get better at this as I’m a consultant for our company’s CEO and VP so constantly have to interact with powerful/intimidating people. It’d be great to be better at that and use it more effectively in my work!

  122. When I grew up I did not have a lot of friends (actually more or less none) so I did not get a lot of natural training in social skills, add to this that I was very shy and therefore avoided reaching out to people and the problem was multiplied.
    I notice today that I’m often too eager to please when talking to people. Say I am networking with somebody who could potentially lead to a new job. I clearly state what I can do and how I could add value, however instead of leaving it at that I add more and more things I can do. They basically loose interest in the conversation (I’m like a drone) and in my skillset thinking I am socially awkward and a ‘jack-of-all-trades and a master of none’.
    To add to the problem I also tend to repeat myself and say the same things 3 times in different ways after each other. This comes from my days in training when explaining things to helpdesk agents, who needed multiple explanations. It is holding me back when working with directors/VPs since they ‘get it’ after the first explanation and if they don’t they are happy to ask for a clarification.

  123. I work as a wedding photographer, blogger and writer, so meeting and talking to people isn’t as much of an issue with me as some other readers. However there are times when I brainfart and get completely uncomfortable – such as when I’m out with friends or at networking events. Seeing your scripts and theories reminded me that a lot of the things you recommend were things I naturally do when I’m on the job. I just needed to apply those skills in my other situations. Your skills, abilities and teachings transcend into different industries such as mine and I can’t thank you enough for helping me get through my rut! I learned a few new things thanks to you and definitely plan on using these more when I’m out in social situations and networking events!

    Cheers!

  124. My biggest challenge is that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. Any social exchange is fraught with nerves and followed by exhaustion. Trying to overcome my natural timidity, I once accepted a job with a Fortune 500 company as a repo man. Based on this experience, I shared a story of my greatest career failure with my grown daughter today:

    As a repo man, I quickly learned that I could negotiate repayment with 95% of delinquent customers over the phone. (I was motivated to do anything so I didn’t have to approach them face-to-face and grab their equipment!) I wobbled through the other 5% with varying degrees of success in bringing back payment and/or equipment. Then came the fateful day when I drove to a small town lawyer’s office in Appalachia. (It was the same town on which a TV show was based, called “The Dukes of H……”) When I entered the office, I was met by a sawed off shotgun and a lawyer counting down from five for me to disappear. I don’t think I’ve ever moved quite as fast before nor since as I peeled rubber and headed down the mountain roads. I made sure to sign up for courses in computer science that night so I never had to return to that job again.

    BTW, I went on to a successful career in software design.

    • Oops–forgot to give my daughter’s reaction. She first was amazed I’d ever failed at any endeavor (ha! got her brainwashed) and then said it was great I’d never tried being a bond enforcement agent.

  125. I’m actually very good at socializing with people, and I was going to say that I’m just naturally that way, but on reflection I realize I’ve been working at it for years. When I was a nerdy teenager, I set about learning everything I could about flirting so I could transform myself into a desirable date. As an adult, I geek out over stuff like discourse analysis (the behavioral science of conversation/interaction), and I’ve routinely done things like choose to go to big events alone so that I’m forced to meet new people. At this point, everywhere I go, I end up talking to people. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t end up having a conversation with a restaurant server about something other than food. Drop me in an unfamiliar setting, and I guarantee I’ll have made at least three friends before I leave. I actually *enjoy* both public speaking and job interviews.

    However, there’s one area in which I could really up my game to world-class, in a way that would really align with my goals at this stage. My social weakness is being in situations where I feel like everyone else is way out of my league and therefore must be looking down at me. I *can* make small talk with millionaires or celebrities– I have– but I’m often really conscious of feeling outclassed and it makes my natural/cultivated gregariousness much harder for me to draw on. A good example is interacting with high-level executives, board members, or money people in a situation where my position relative to theirs is such that I feel like “the help”, especially if I feel like they’re looking through me like I’m not even a human being. That’s when I start seething inside and don’t bother trying to make small talk at all. I’m in a place in my life where I really need to be at ease around people who are at higher levels than I am, and to engage with them in a way that they enjoy and that makes them feel good. That’s probably the biggest thing for me to work on.

    The thing I was most pleasantly surprised by with this post and the video is realizing that I’ve got my arsenal of stories that I’ve been honing and testing without being totally conscious that I was polishing them. Depending on the setting and the audience, I can talk about the time I was sitting 20 feet away from and talking to a convicted serial killer in a maximum security prison; about performing in the worst vampire play ever written; about the time I went on a blind date with a guy who claimed to have played with the Misfits and who went WAY over the top with his courtship; about the best and funniest job interview I had with the man who later became one of my two favorite bosses; about driving up the coast of Ireland at night in pouring rain and gale force winds while drivers whipped by me at 90mph and I was passing road safety signs that said things like “Stop the Carnage!”; about the time the aforementioned boss sent me out to buy an apology frog to replace one he had killed through benign neglect; about the time my Western Civ teacher challenged me to take his place and I taught the Crusades for a week while he got to be the unruly student.

    I’m also really fond of weird trivia and the strange stories behind places, things, events, etc, so I don’t *have* to talk about myself– I can throw out an interesting anecdote about almost any topic of conversation. That’s been pretty useful too. I’m definitely a born storyteller and I love doing it, so that’s something I rely on a lot to make connections with people.

  126. I’m generally well-received, but have two huge weaknesses: First, not being empathic and totally present in the conversation means that I forget names and tend to drill with questions as opposed to genuinely engaged. Second, I don’t tell stories.

    My bro-in-law is an awesome sales and business person. Many times I have found him, alone, engaged in a full conversation. It took me awhile to pick up on what he was really doing: rehearsing.

    I’ll be crafting, testing & honing this week. Thanks!

  127. Biggest weakness: Low self-esteem. As an 18-year-old in a conservative country, I am cognizant that what I believe in is against the norm, and as a result, prefer keeping my trap shut than painstakingly conveying my foreign ideals to the masses.

    I have always had a more refined sense of being than my peers. Changing the world was my life-long dream, but I never really knew how to put my passion into words.

    Maybe it’s my lack of articulation when it comes to talking about myself, or maybe I could just sense that nobody was really all that interested.
    Either ways, that has always been my greatest barrier.

    I now understand that I should take the time to summarize my ideals into 20 second or 9 minute long spiels, because then I would have something on hand forevery occasion. Never really understood the importance of such preparation before.

    Thank you so much for this Ramit!

    Now, for me to figure out HOW I’m gonna go about this…

  128. A tree fell on me once. Really. It pinned me to the hood of a car at this hotel I worked at one summer when I was in college. The tree wasn’t huge, and I wasn’t hurt.

    The first line always gets a reaction. Always. “You’re kidding, tell me more.” The rest of the story basically robs the first line of its initial impact. Obviously they’re going to find out it didn’t kill me, or I wouldn’t be telling the story. So, big reaction, followed by a little disappointment that I wasn’t somehow permanently maimed.

    BTW, do you ever study the banter of magicians? They are in such total command of an audience, skillfully misdirecting and manipulating the attention of everyone in the room.

    • Either figure out a way to transition to a better story ending or get rid of the story. I suspect you will have to trash it. And yes, I’ve studied magicians.

    • Tree fell on me once.

      It pinned me to the hood of my car.

      Luckily, I kept my senses about and managed to push it half-off and half-slide away. I didn’t get hurt too badly – but that tree fell on me with no warning at all! I never did anything to it! So now I make sure to stay away from trees, they’re not as harmless as you think ;)

  129. Howdy Ramit,
    Great post! I definitely think I’m a little socially awkward. My biggest issue comes down to knowing what to say. Typically when I don’t know how to respond to someone, I get nervous, laugh awkwardly and sweat. Awesome.

    The standout instance of this is when I was on a job interview. The interviewer asked “What three words describe you?” I can list three words that describe me perfectly in my sleep. But, that day my brain was dead and unable to think under pressure. I was barely able to rattle out two words and the third word I said was “likes cheese”

    What? Likes cheese as a word to describe myself? OOf!

  130. Hi Ramit,

    I consider myself quite good at starting conversations and engaging people (although not adept at ending them), as long as it is just one or two people.

    My challenge is how to speak to groups of people, particularly during presentations to groups of 10, 20, or more. I do this at work and also for activities related to fundraising for charity etc. Some of these challenges are:

    1) Jokes falling flat (people often don’t know a comment was a joke, and it just ends up being confusing)

    2) Something that I hoped would be illuminating, inspiring, or moving in some way, doesn’t translate. I start panicking when a particular topic is not going over as I had planned and then…

    3) I start speaking to fast, eager to end the the discomfort and start saying
    ummm, uhhh, ummm…. Then even I start to lose interest.

    Thanks for the post…simple and specific. I will start practicing these today.

    -Ream

  131. Everyone has their own conversational pet peeves, and mine is when people interrupt me. But ironically, I have a strange habit:

    I am FREQUENTLY the interrupter! I do it so often, that I only realize it AFTER I do it!

    I have an idea of where this came from. When I was younger, I was not very self confident. I was quiet and shy and probably insecure with my social perception of myself. Introspective and easily “distractable”, I would get lost in my thoughts or the surroundings when someone else was speaking to me (kinda still do this).

    I moved across the country to a close-knit community full of people from big families who are used to talking loud and proud to get their voices heard.

    Feeling like I could never get a word in edge-wise, I too started talking loud and injecting my thoughts in conversations, with no regards to the timing. I guess you could say I’ve overcompensated.

    Though I consider myself a master at small talk and starting conversations, I still have this horrible interrupting habit.

    When on the phone with my dad, mom and brother, they called me out on it.

    So, I’ve tried putting my hand over my mouth until someone is done speaking, waiting until they stop speaking completely (which usually coincides with them walking away before I can get in my opinions), and even snapping a rubberband on my wrist so that the pain can be my negative reinforcement.

    It’s gotten better, but I definitely can improve on becoming “tuned in” enough to know when it’s appropriate to interject. :)

  132. Hey there, Ramit!

    I’m an online entrepreneur myself (thanks to your earn1k course), so I do have a decent amount of online connections. However, it is insanely hard for me to talk to super rich/super successful people and build connections that will last for a long time. In my mind, I always have a feeling that I’m just wasting their time by talking to them.

    Let me give you an example to explain what I mean right away. A couple of months ago, I went to Vienna for a business dinner (~130 relatively successful businessmen). One day before the conference itself, I was invited to a party at some super successful guy’s house. I was of course thrilled to come there, but I just wasn’t able to show my enthusiasm and share it with others.

    So what happened is that I ended up sitting in a room full of people alone, just watching them, maybe doing a little bit of small talk, but that’s about it. I did talk to about 2 people and tried to empathically listen to them, but somehow I’ve let them get away without even getting their contacts. I’ve also had problems with asking questions. I did ask them some questions that you suggested (what would you change about your life if you could change one thing/what does your usual day look like etc.), but somehow when the awkward silence came, the conversations stopped.

    Altogether, I would say that I’ve spent about 80% of the time silent and only 20% of the time talking. The problem was also that I didn’t know any of those people in person from before. I’ve only “known” the host and maybe 3 more people (talked to them on skype in the past), but even with the host I spoke only like 10 words the whole evening (because I had in mind that I’m not important enough to speak to him?!?!?! WTF.). It was easier to be in my comfort zone and not make eye contact with people than to overcome my barriers.

    The next morning I was pretty pissed off because I missed this opportunity to make awesome connections with successful people. So I decided to get rid of this fear once and for all and went into another extreme. When I arrived at the dinner, I’ve found one of the guys from the party the night before. He was also socially awkward and we decided to challenge ourselves by introducing us to every single person that attended the dinner.

    It turned out to be quite fun, we were kind of each other’s wingmen, had a lot of fun, listened to some interesting stories, got to know a lot of interesting people for a few minutes. Problem? I said FOR A FEW MINUTES. I suppose the idea of going out of the comfort zone and starting conversations was awesome, but we made a big mistake – we went for quantity, not quality. The result? No real connections, we of course forgot to take e-mails/skype adresses from people, and even if we did we’d have a lot of problems when we’d contact them as we wouldn’t remember much about them or their names. And that’s not good because then they wouldn’t feel important. I think they just felt like some random numbers who we had to talk to for our challenge.

    So I did go out of my comfort zone, but with an incorrect approach. It doesn’t matter though, it was a fun challenge and I’ve learned from my mistake – next time I will try to make fewer, but more valuable connections. The question is – HOW?

    And just to make you laugh at my failiures a bit more, let me just mention that after the dinner, we went to a club and I’ve tried to invest in myself by paying 200€ to enter the VIP space where the top businessmen hung out. I actually did have a couple quite interesting conversations there, but of course i got drunk in the process (free unlimited champagne and grey goose vodkas, what do you expect?) and forgot to get contact details to stay in touch. So overall from the whole trip I’ve made a real connection with the guy who we had the challenge with, but I haven’t spoken to him since the trip.

    I’ve tried working on my social skills in the past. During earn1k, you’ve taught me to LISTEN and STFU. I’ve been applying that successfully with my clients, and it works miracles. 90% of my clients really enjoy talking to me, so that’s awesome (I’m a consultant for poker players, teaching them how to become super productive and super successful – try that for a niche market!).

    I’ve developed the skill of listening empathically further by reading books such as for example the “7 habits of highly effective people” (from your book list btw). I’ve also learned how to GIVE to people without expecting anything in return from “Never eat alone” – again from your book list. That also helped me build my business a lot (producing free content).

    I’ve tried improving my communication skills by joining Toastmasters. I’ve been going to their meetings since September frequently and have achieved great progress in my public speaking skills. My seminars and speeches are now WAY better than they used to be. Toastmasters also helped me get in touch with a lot of successful and interesting people, so I recommend them to everyone here. I’ve learned a lot from those guys at “networking” after the meetings, but I must say that I only see them weekly at meetings – again I have a fear of asking them out to coffee/lunch because i feel too unimportant.

    Btw, for everyone who reads this – you should try to join toastmasters if you want to create a bigger network and learn some public speaking skills – it’s an awesome organisation with insane value for only 50€ yearly investment.

    The problem is however that TM didn’t really help me improve social/communication skills all that much. I have lately realised that I should just observe people more though. So now I’m observing people at the meetings and watching how some of them are super social. I’ll try to talk to the super social guys at the next meeting and try to found out how they do it.

    The last thing that I’ve tried is applying Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people”. I’ve read it and started applying the principles one by one every two weeks, and it’s helping me become a nicer, more polite person and I love it. It will take me a year to apply it but it’s an awesome time investment. However, even though this book will help me with social skills a lot, it will probably not help me solved the specific problem which I wrote to you about – not being able to talk to super successful people normally.

    I would like to thank you for all the awesome articles, book, e-mails and the earn1k course. Your content has helped me move from a student working for 5€/h in a computer company to an entrepreneur who is working for 125€/h in his own office and has effected the lives of many people. If I didn’t manage to find earn1k, who knows where I’d be right now. So thanks again for that.

    P.S. I wanted to write a case study for you, but wasn’t quite sure if you’d be interested in it. If you’ve read this far, you probably are and you want me to write you a more detailed case study of where I’m at right now and how your content has helped me on the way. Please send me an e-mail if that’s the case and I’ll take the time to write an awesome case study for you, that’s really the least I can do.

    -Primoz

  133. My biggest weakness is mis-judging social cues in a conversation. I am talk to someone I have met for the first time and as the conversation goes on, I suddenly realize that I am doing this “thing” called conversing and realizing that makes me very self-conscious. Suddenly I start judging myself, saying things like,
    “hmm..maybe she thinks I am boring..”. This thought lingers on till the conversation ends.

  134. When I moved to Berlin I needed to make friends.
    I said to myself “people hang out in bars”. The only problem is that people in bars tend to already be in groups, and it would be weird just to barge in in such a group.
    So instead of figuring out how to introduce myself to a group of people who already know each other, I decided to bypass the problem: I went to clubs. In clubs people were dancing and just be scattered all over the place. It was much easier to just start talking to someone. They would then introduce you to friends and from there you can just start talking to other people nearby. And people would just naturally assume that you’re there with people. And if you’re not talking to anyone, you can just dance.
    That’s how I made friends. I would meet them outside of the clubs, get to know their friends and ultimately build a social circle.
    (After a few months I discovered meetup.com and meet lots of great people with similar interests).

  135. Ramit,

    Thank you for your video. First of all I’m surprised at the number of responses and at just how many people consider themselves to be socially awkward. And there I was thinking I was all alone.

    I have not been a student of your material for long, which is perhaps why it has also surprised me that there are so many ways to address areas of weakness in the social skill arena. I mean, who knew that you could memorize scripts for initiating, maintaining and terminating conversations? Unbelievable.

    Weakness #1:
    Rather than take risks and sound unknowledgeable in certain social circles, I would rather be a listener and not a talker. Talk about awkward. Had no idea I could get out there and initiate the conversation to begin with. For years I thought I was just shy and introverted. You can’t change that, can you?

    Weakness #2
    Smile too much to let people know that I get what they’re saying. In fact, here is an example of how I accommodate people too much:

    In conversation with a group of people, if I get a direct question, such as “Do you know the actor I’m talking about”, I will say “yeah, yeah” even though I don’t know who they are referring to. I catch myself doing this frequently. Weird right?

    Now I know that I can change all of this strange behavior and look forward to testing some new approaches.

    Thanks again Ramit.

  136. My biggest social skills challenge is that if I go to a social event with someone who is an extrovert I tend to be less social and engaging and allow that person to take the lead. For example, I went to a wedding with my best friend who is an extrovert and she dominated the conversation at a table of people I didn’t know well. Even when I tried to say something and join the conversation it almost felt like I was competing for “air time” with her. I have to say as the reception progressed I talked less and less and allowed her to dominate the flow of conversation. Ramit what would be your suggestion to remedy the above situation? Did happens quite often to me who is an introvert.

  137. I’m going off of the video prompt instead of the post one. And I must say, that you actually are more thoughtful, softer (in a good, masculine way) and far less bombastic than your posts suggest.

    My biggest social skill issue is not wanting to/being afraid to approach people and tend to be introverted. I have tons of friends, across the world, that I’ve known for years. I don’t date much, however. And on occasion, I a few of those great friends have told me that they initially thought I didn’t like them or that I was unapproachable. And I think that’s likely a projection of not wanting to seem needy – wanting people to approach me, because I’m afraid to approach them. Generally once conversations start, I have no problem keeping them going, being engaging, etc. It’s just the start.

    For example, there was this women’s mixer a couple of months ago. I went alone and by the time I’d arrived, the women had already kind of formed their comfortable groups, which made things more daunting for me. I could have easily gone up and asked about their affiliation with the group, how many mixers they’d gone to before – had I thought about it. I was more in my head and trying to figure out how long before I was going to leave. At one point a really entertaining and lively girl came up and started asking questions, introduced me to a couple of people, but in seeing the contrast between us and noticing how the people who already knew her wanted to talk to her and didnt seem interested in speaking with me, I got disheartened (& I’m sure my body language began to scream that). I also felt that I was inadvertently latching on (metaphorically) to her for comfort, so I pulled away. After we both moved on to different conversations, which mine, though engaging, didnt last long, I gave up and went home.

  138. Ramit
    Great video today! You hit on several major social stumbling blocks.
    So helpful!
    In conversation I am pretty good at the intro, when the small talk starts I go into my head and get awkward.
    REALLY AWKWARD (and potentially aggressively repellant)
    A great example – I was hit on by an adorable male model.
    Mr. Gorgeous : “Don’t leave without letting me buy you a drink!”
    Me, smiling: “I won’t.”
    Mr. Gorgeous: “I’m Mikail”
    Me, in my head, sure I don’t deserve the attention of this god: “like Sieg Heil?”

    What the f*** is wrong with me? Ack!
    Would love some help.

  139. As someone who used to sport the body type of a rescue greyhound minus the athletic ability, I have struggled with confidence. My biggest weakness is when first relating to those who are far more accomplished. If I know them already, or they seek me out, then I can relate well, however when I am approaching a person like this for the first time, I have a harder time. For example, I have been at meetings or social gathering where when I look around the room and realize that I am the only one who is not the head of a major organization, scientific star in the field, multi millionaire, or publicly distinguished in some way. “How do you know so and so?” gets the conversation started, and then the rest is a crap shoot. Sometimes we find something in common, other times I feel like I have a large blinking LOSER sign on my forehead. As a friend once described it, “They looked like they would rather be doing anything else but talking to me.”

    Here is a specific example. Years ago I met a woman who is a founder of a major corporation through my boyfriend at the time. She asked me about my job. I stammered because it sounded so unimpressive compared to what she had done. She was incredibly gracious and shared a mistake she made early in her career and took the lead and continued to be supportive in our interactions due to her kindness and her social finesse. I’ve improved a lot since then but have a long ways to go. Working out has gotten rid of the scrawniness, and I now have a dream job, however I want to take it to the next level.

    Thank you Ramit for putting focus on the psychology of business and behaviors. Although I chose not to pursue licensing, the degrees in psychology combined with business experience has been more useful than many of the business theory classes I took at university.

  140. I tend to over share too much information in situations that just don’t make sense.

    For example, I’m standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s with my wife and 3 kids. (Not the best scenario for small talk with anyone.) The guy behind us knows my wife from an old job and we all do the “Hey, I’m Matt…” blah blah blah. They guy’s wife notices my debit card is a USAA card and mentions how much she loves USAA. Instead of replying, “Yeah, we love them too.” I go into this awkward story about how the only reason I’m a USAA member is because my Dad’s new wife was a retired naval commander and since they got married and she was a member, that made me eligible. All this time, we’re checking trying to keep our kids from pulling all the candy off the aisles.

    I immediately cut myself off and say, “Nice to meet you!” as we scurry away. The story has gone over well in the past, but I find myself over sharing (rambling?) when I need to be more succinct and share at more opportune times.

    When I intentionally hold back, things seem to flow better, instead of dropping a bomb of chatter on someone.

  141. My biggest problem with social interactions is fear and wondering of what the other person thinks of me and/or how I’m doing in the interaction. This in-sitation over evaluation causes me to be tense and come across awkwardly.

    For example, I might start a conversation well, but then start over judging every word, facial expression, body expression the other person is making. It’s paralyzing.

  142. My biggest weakness is speed of thought.

    For my age and education, I’m in the lower 20th percentile for cognitive speed, but in the 98th percentile for attention and 86th for problem solving (data from Luminosity). The result is that I am slow, deliberate, perfectionistic, and can be easily intimidated by the very people I’d like to get to know.

    This is also compounded by a subtle elitist and critical undertone in speaking, which comes naturally. This is excellent for debates and sometimes meetings, but horrid for making new friends. In generally I’m also very different from most people and have trouble finding things in common. My main passion is chi gong : /

    I’m only 23 and improving every day, so don’t even consider giving the prize to me.

  143. My biggest weakness is a fear about how I’ll come across when I say something. This SUCKS because in a gathering, I’ll think of a joke then think “nah, that won’t go over well.” Usually anywhere between 5-30 seconds later somebody else will say THE EXACT SAME THING, get a ton of laughs, and I’ll just be off wherever I am going “Damn it!”

    Graphic example, but I was at a bar where a blind lady was walking around selling sperm shots — like actual plastic drink containers that look like sperm filled with white alcoholic liquid. We got some, and a guy was waving it around in front of another girl’s face making her uncomfortable when she goes, “No, stop it! I don’t want that I’m not hungry right now!”

    Right then I wanted to stop all conversation, stare at her, then go “you’re not HUNGRY RIGHT NOW!?” and laugh at her. But I thought “no I don’t know her enough.” Sure enough, 5 seconds later (after I went through this entire internal dialogue), another guy did the same thing I thought of and got a ton of laughs.

    I finally only consciously realized this recently so when it pops into my head I force myself to say it. But this completely botches the timing I would sometimes need to pull it off and/or I say it in a monotone way without enthusiasm or emphasis, and the reaction I get kind of reinforces my fear. This fear also makes me really anxious about going to social functions (like tonight the company I just joined a week ago is having a belated holiday party with an OPEN BAR — and I’m trying to find reasons not to go.)

  144. Hi Ramit,
    I would consider myself a social butterfly that can’t control her wings.
    I struggle with my confidence, over sharing and calibrating a situation. If I am intimidated by the person I’m talking to it’s hard for me to keep eye contact and stop myself from rambling and talking at a fast pace. Then if I tell a story and it falls flat I instantly become mortified and try to salvage the joke by explaining it over and over again. Afterwards I will completely fade from the conversation and try to find the darkest corner to hide in and go over in my head about what went wrong and how much I suck. I also believe that the way I present myself can cause people to not take me seriously. When this happens I start to retreat into myself and become very self conscious about ever little thing. I want to work in the entertainment industry long term and it’s all about your relationships. I know that my social skills are alright but they haven’t developed enough where I can create meaningful friendships and relationships past the first conversation. My friends think that I am really good at talking to strangers but I actually struggle with my inner thoughts and don’t know how to feel comfortable and confident in the situation. I believe with you’re help it can really take me out of this funk and give me tools to control my emotions, read people, really connect to them and know how I am coming off in a social situation.

  145. My biggest social challenge is following up.

    I’m a very in the moment type and curious about people. I don’t have any problem striking up a conversation, and on a regular basis end up talking/bonding with someone for hours.

    I’m able to have genuine connections with people but after that initial great conversation I often avoid there calls. Ugh I hate myself for doing it! I have a couple theories but I’m not 100% sure why I do that.

    A) I feel like I hit it off with someone now they’re calling and it’s going to monopolize all my time. They’re going to get too attached and view me as there new bff. Often we have such a long and intimate conversation that I assume all the others will be the same.

    B) I’m now in this moment either getting to know a new person or just focused on the task at hand that I don’t pick up the phone.

    Any other tips or theories on why I do this graciously are welcome!

    What I have just started to do is block out an hour a week where I reconnect and check in with one or two if the time allows. This hasn’t been going so well, even though I feel great after I call, it opens up the flood gates for them to start calling, texting everyday.

    I’ve also started calling someone if I’m commuting into town. It’s a 20 min drive and then I can start the conversation as “I’m on my way to where ever and I wanted to give you a call and see whats new.” This has been working pretty well because it gives me an out by putting a time limit on the conversation. Plus while driving I’m not engaged in any other activity.

  146. I know they don’t like me! I think they they are not interested talking to me.
    This is my invisible script before even meeting people or while speaking with some people! There gotta be something about my face or social skills or body language that I don’t impress people in first meeting or I think they are not impressed as much. But those who people I keep seeing them after a while or I get to be more comfortable with them. They are often shocked or impressed how different I am!

    I had this meeting for the first time with a lady about a business. The moment she she saw me in coffee shop she said Hi and then said “Oh my god you are too young!!!!”
    I did not have enough social or conversational skills to get over this awkward moment. from the beginning
    the meeting didn’t go very well.

  147. My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is consistency. I get extremely self-conscious about how much I’m talking, but also about how keeping a comfortable conversation going.

    What ends up happening is that, on one hand, I want to get to know people well and feel a sense of closeness to them, but on the other I don’t want to show all my cards and dominate by only talking about myself or seeming like I’m sharing too much too fast.

    For example, I’ve heard from a few acquaintances that I carry an air of mystery, like I’m not always open about myself. In a lot of cases I just shut up and let my wife talk until someone asks me a question specifically, to the point that I sometimes don’t even acknowledge someone until they say something to me.

    On the flip side, at a recent party the conversation turned to religion (uh oh) and I started to talk about my own negative experiences with it. When I started down that line of conversation, it seemed that it was going to make people uncomfortable, so I cut myself off before it was too late, but still probably went a step too far because I wanted people to not feel like I was a closed book, so to say.

    It’s like I can’t find that “sweet spot” where people feel like I’m being open without being TOO open.

  148. My biggest weakness is never feeling like I’ve left a memorable impression. I think I’m pretty good at small talk, however, I’ve noticed that I’ll meet someone for a second or third time and they don’t quite remember me.

    So, WWRD (what would Ramit do). I tested a few things and found that I become more memorable when I leave the person I’m talking to with something of value. For example, if I meet someone new to my city I’ll ask them what kind of food they like, then recommend a restaurant to them. I’ve also recommended books or articles to people I think they might find interesting based on something they’ve brought up in conversation. Next time I see them they’ll say something like, “Hey, you’re the guy who recommended X to me” and we easily pick up our conversation.

  149. Hi Ramit,

    This video was quite insightful, specifically the parts on calibrating your message as your delivering it to either warp the conversation up, to transition, or to elaborate a bit more. I think the most important thing is how to listen to other people and really hear what they are saying, especially their tone of voice and body language.

    I think I can improve on body language and transitioning more effectively. Plus, I could always become a better listener. For example, I am a fairly laid-back person who needs to work on being more assertive. I used to think that I was being hostile or too aggressive if I acted “dominant” or took the lead, even if I wasn’t overbearing. But, I questioned that assumption and found it to be false through trial and error much like you alluded to in the video. So, I would like to work on being more assertive, leading the conversation more, and to calibrate my messages more effectively to a wide variety of audiences and various social situations.

    Thank you for sharing and for this opportunity to compete for the media training.

  150. My biggest weakness in a mingling environment is an exit strategy. I’m actually pretty decent at making small talk, and I feel like I can drive the conversation. Where I have problems is getting out when I’m bored with whomever I am speaking, or when I can tell they are ready to move on.

    For example, I was at a career forum for my company a few months ago. I began talking with some acquaintances, when another person joined in the conversation. He wasn’t speaking much, so I asked him some questions to pull him in and make him feel included.

    Slowly my acquaintances wandered off, and it was just me and the guy. I realized that he and I had literally nothing in common, but I kept the conversation going. I was quite ready to find someone else to talk to, but I KEPT ASKING HIM QUESTIONS! This guy thought I was his new best friend, and I was unable to get away for the rest of the social period. Who knew it is as simple as saying “It was a pleasure meeting you, thanks for chatting?”

  151. I bring up an innocent self-deprecating story of my childhood (well, age 16). I find it is lighthearted enough for many occasions, provides people a sense of nostalgia, and it often lowers other people’s guard (and they share their own story they are reminded of). Then it just becomes a flow of topics after that.

    —–
    When I was 16, in high school, and just learning to drive, my mom asked me a favor. She asked me to stop by Blockbuster and pick up a movie…I think it was Braveheart . I was on my way out and then she said, “Oh, while you’re there, can you also pick up a Head of Lettuce”. Alright, Blockbuster – Braveheart, a Head of Lettuce. Easy peazy. I’ll jump in my badass ’96 Ford Probe . So I get to Blockbuster, and I find Braveheart. No problem. I go to the Comedy section to find a Head of Lettuce…I don’t see it. Drama? Nope. Foreign films? Nope. I finally ask the people working there, “Do you guys have a head of lettuce?” They look into their database….nope!

    So I get home, and I tell my mom and dad, “Hey, yeah, I found Braveheart, but they didn’t have a Head of Lettuce.” My mom and dad looked at me like I was crazy and started laughing at me. I didn’t get why. They finally explained, “no, we want a head of lettuce from the Grocery Store nearby!”.

    “But I was right, right? They asked me to go to Blockbuster for Braveheart and a Head of Lettuce. Two objects should be a like in a compound like that, right?”

    If they don’t laugh or at least chuckle, I slap them in the face and say, “didn’t see that one coming, did ya!?” and walk away because they are boring

  152. Coming off in the way I want/meant to in a conversation.

    I am fairly young but do a lot of reading, been to interesting places and have done a lot of interesting things but I feel when I try to tell the stories about my experiences I come off like a complete doucher. First of all I am a naturally fast speaker so there are times people have literally asked me to slow down. Then at times I can mumble (obviously worse when I am speaking too fast). Even if I get past those issues I feel like the way I articulate and tells stories can be a put off, like I am coming off as some kind of completely cocky asshole (and I don’t even wear Affliction shirts!!!). I have tried a few different things and have gotten better with mumbling and talking fast but the story articulation just is not there.

  153. My biggest weakness in social situations tends to be not remembering some of the topics of a conversation that we had before, which can hurt especially the second time you meet an acquaintance of a friend or through work. I think it’s because I tend to go on question/stock comment autopilot (fake laughs and all). This is especially the case when I feel like I may not see them again or aren’t terribly interested in what we’re talking about. However, it’s also happened to me with clients, which is more damaging, because they assume that you remember what we had talked about. I’m definitely not a conversation dominator (I usually talk maybe 25-30%)…but after watching your video maybe one thing I can test is taking more control of the conversation.

    Things I have tested include:
    1) Trying to simply concentrate harder on remembering (obvious failure, haha)
    2) Trying to formulate questions that repeat some of what they just said (does help some, but not with duller work or social topics)
    3) Trying to attach a personal or emotional experience of my own to what they are telling me (probably works the best, but I then tend to drift in my own head and lose concentration on the conversation)

    Things that I would like to test after some more research I’ve done and watching your video…
    – Taking more control of conversations…maybe if I’m focused on not going into autopilot, I’ll be more invested in remembering (because I’ll be testing my taking control ability)
    – After reading some of Moonwalking with Einstein and listening to Josh Foer’s TED talk on memory over the holidays…equating what they are saying to either a card from a deck or to a fake, visual story in my head involving that person

    I look forward to seeing how I can improve!

  154. Oops, have to repost since it excluded everything I had in the left/right arrows before. Sorry :)

    —-

    I bring up an innocent self-deprecating story of my childhood (well, age 16). I find it is lighthearted enough for many occasions, provides people a sense of nostalgia, and it often lowers other people’s guard (and they share their own story they are reminded of). Then it just becomes a flow of topics after that.

    —–
    When I was 16, in high school, and just learning to drive, my mom asked me a favor. She asked me to stop by Blockbuster (people may interject here and offer commentary. Cool.) and pick up a movie…I think it was Braveheart (people may interject here and be like “omg, I love that” and I’ll go “freeedoooom”). I was on my way out and then she said, “Oh, while you’re there, can you also pick up a Head of Lettuce”. Alright, Blockbuster – Braveheart, a Head of Lettuce. Easy peazy. I’ll jump in my badass ’96 Ford Probe (people may interject here and talk about their first car). So I get to Blockbuster, and I find Braveheart. No problem. I go to the Comedy section to find a Head of Lettuce…I don’t see it. Drama? Nope. Foreign films? Nope. I finally ask the people working there, “Do you guys have a head of lettuce?” They look into their database….nope!

    (At this point, if they didn’t catch it early on, they realize I was being a moron and are waiting for that confirmation or if they don’t get it, even better)

    So I get home, and I tell my mom and dad, “Hey, yeah, I found Braveheart, but they didn’t have a Head of Lettuce.” My mom and dad looked at me like I was crazy and started laughing at me. I didn’t get why. They finally explained, “no, we want a head of lettuce from the Grocery Store nearby!”.

    (At this point, they get it and laugh and say, “oh that’s so funny!…I then continue…) “But I was right, right? They asked me to go to Blockbuster for Braveheart and a Head of Lettuce. Two objects should be a like in a compound like that, right?” (Then we can get in a debate…then they can tell me a story they were reminded of or a misunderstanding they’ve had, blah blah blah.)

    If they don’t laugh or at least chuckle, I slap them in the face and say, “didn’t see that one coming, did ya!?” and walk away because they are boring (still working on my exit strategy)

  155. My biggest weakness: Thinking that no one really wants to get to know me (insecure). I don’t give myself enough credit as a person or professional…not to mention I feel like being married with a 10 month old baby kills my conversations.

    If I happen to get out of the house without my baby (rare but does happen) I get this horrible feeling that people are looking at me…judging me (I’m Canadian but live in Spain). Sometimes I like being “the foreigner” but then other times I feel like I’m totally an outsider and different. It isn’t long before my cell phone is out so I can look busy. (I’d love to play up my foreigner status but I don’t know how).

    I wish I could walk into the local cafe that I frequent without hesitation and smile at others as I walk in. Say hello with confidence to the servers and strike up a conversation with them or the other customers.

    I want to be comfortable in my own skin or at least have the skills and knowledge to push through the fear and anxiety that pops up and know that I can be social and connect with others.

    Starting conversations with men is particularly scary because I fear they will think I’m hitting on them. Sometimes I just want to talk to people. I remember at a party a couple years ago, I was having a great conversation with a friend of a friend of mine and the minute he found out I was married his face totally changed and he was gone in less than 2 minutes. He didn’t use your suggested escape script though Ramit (that would have been kind)…I think he waved at someone across the room and said “oh, look”…as he pointed and walked away. Wow.

    PS: Thanks for the great video :)

  156. I don’t have only one weakness when I’m discussing with someone, but several !! I am more a listener person than talkactive. I don’t know how to tell stories… I try to be funny, but…. I am often not. When I become nervous, I ask 100 questions/minute. When the other person is someone…let’s say…more cultivated than me, I prefer not to open my mouth as I am afraid to say something ridiculous.

    I will make it short :
    1) this “get social-skills training” would be a FAN-TAS-TIC experience for me, this would be a hugh opportunity to developp my communication skills by working with professionals during this training
    2) I never been in NYC – I dream to go there
    3) I WANT TO CHANGE and I am MOTIVATED

    Thanks, Ramit, for the time you spend for your posts, they are really constructive and valuable :) !

  157. This is an example of how to fail at picking your audience. I was at a Christmas/New Year’s Party a few years ago while I was still in undergrad (Zoology major which will partially explain why I thought what I was saying was interesting, though I realized as I was saying it that it WAS NOT haha). Cocktails and appetizers are out, I was talking with some really good friends and a friend of theirs, let’s call her Susie (I was acquainted with her, but not friends). Susie was talking about going to school in Alabama and being engaged to a chicken farmer. Eureka, I had been studying poultry in school and proceeded to talk about chicken housing, nutrition (e.g. first limiting amino acid methionine… omg why did I say this???) etc. And she looked at me like I was crazy (which I think I am.) My friends who were there thought it was funny at least and it has continued to be a pretty funny story to tell now (specifically when I’m illustrating how awkward I have been throughout my life lol.)

  158. My problem is similar to the WoW guy on the video. I ask a ton of questions but when I am asked a question my response is uninteresting. I try asking more uninteresting questions making it seem like I am interrogating them. They quickly try to get out of the conversation and speak to some one else. After watching the video I will work on the following things: taking control of the conversion by not being passive, creating interesting stories to tell people, and practice telling these stories. Thanks Ramit

  159. Besides approaching unknown people, giving them an insight of my true self, through my linguistic usage or body language, and finding a connection between the two us, that we both can benefit from, is probably one of the biggest challenges I have faces so far in my life.

  160. I am a 1uper. My go-to conversation continuation is to tell a story of a similar experience that has an even greater result. Someone will be telling me about how there car broke down on the way to the event and I go to the story of when my steering broke on xmas eve. The can tell me about their trip to Italy, and I will top it with my trip through Italy on the back end of a 5 city trip.

    I can’t seem to find something in their story to pull out and conversationalize. I need to take story’s from my toolbox that apply and take over the conversation.

    Thanks

  161. VOLUME CONTROL.

    This is a problem both literally (the actual decibels of my voice) and figuratively (shutting other people out of the conversation by talking over them).

    I am very passionate about many things, and when someone shows the slightest inkling of interest in one of them, I get really, REALLY excited about hyping it up. It took 20 years before I even realized this was a problem: one day, I was driving someplace with my girlfriend, and the enclosed acoustics of the car made my already-loud voice so unbearable that she couldn’t take it anymore. She flailed her arms to get me to shut up, and said, “You know, you can be really LOUD sometimes!”

    I was dumbfounded. I honestly pictured myself as a quiet, reflective guy, and that self-image shattered in an instant as I realized she was right. Imagine all of the people I had intimidated, alienated, and put off, because of my total lack of social awareness.

    Over the years, I’ve collected many tools to combat the problem: for example, at the end of each sentence, question, or story (spoken by myself OR someone else), I take one deep, mindful breath, to slow myself down and give other people a chance to speak. Sometimes, this breath is EXCRUCIATING, because I have something SO COOL to say and what if the person I’m talking to doesn’t get to hear it and goes on to miss out on the COOLEST THING EVER simply because I JUST WASN’T TALKING ENOUGH?!

    Deep breaths! Deep, deep breaths.

    I’ve learned this much about myself: I’ve never walked away from a party wishing I had dominated the conversation MORE. So for me, “When in doubt, shut up and listen” is a great mantra.

    One of my favorite stories to tell is about a turning point in my personal and professional life, when I first put my foot down at work and stubbornly defended a simple solution, as the rest of my team wanted to go with a six-month project that happened to come up in conversation first. It’s a great story because it shows vulnerability from me (I always mention how scary it was to finally assert myself and refuse to back down), creates context for them to share experiences of their own (everyone has been frustrated with overcomplicated solutions and standing up for your own ideas before), and has a happy ending (I ramrodded my simple solution through the red tape, it took 45 minutes, everyone loved it, and the 6-month project was never spoken of again).

    The last time I told it, I went on for too long, because I started off with some of the now-irrelevant technical details. I managed to recover, and it started a great conversation afterward.

  162. My biggest weakness at this moment is feeling overwhelmed by my invisible scripts ( e.g. what I have to say is not interesting or the other person really does not want to engage with me or like me, but is being polite) to the point where I either shut down and go blank or I give too much extraneous detail. For example, if I am talking to a “big wig or VIP,” I am so worried about making a good impression or sounding interesting that I fail to really listen to them and therefore when it is my turn to talk I go blank. Either I did not hear what they said because I was too busy worrying that I then have no response, or if I did listen, I just freeze up. It is very awkward. I have looked for something to help me in this situation, and the piece of advice that helped me the most is ” to be interested, not interesting.” So I have paracticed focusing on simply listening deeply to other person and this has helped me to a point. However I still have a hard time putting my thoughts and ideas into a well structured and succinct response on the fly. I will either spew out a stream of consciousness in an attempt to say something while I try to pull my thoughts together and end up giving a long winded and/or meandering answer ( where I am screaming at myself internally to get to the point already). Or I spew out a bit more detail than is warranted and pepper in questions in a confusing manner, out of nervousness. I have started practice on improving this skill with friends and friendly strangers by taking a short pause after a point so that the other person can jump in and say something. I have seen some improvment, but would like to learn a more proactive approach (my example is pretty passive). I have gotten myself to a point where I can listen much more deeply, (though I still have some way to go here), and I would like a lot more help in creating succinct, engaging responses on the fly, along with the proper body language ( instead of coming across like a talking totem pole!).

  163. Hi, Ramit!

    First off here’s the story. I’ve used it a few times now, and gotten some laughs, sometimes not. I believe it has to do with my delivery.

    * So everyone’s got pictures they hope never surface on the internet. Mine involve melons.
    It all started out as a pretty good first date – good conversation and good food. Then somewhere after talking about my past career as a massage therapist, he proceeds to blurt out; ” Wow, you could probably crush melons with your bare hands. ” As you can imagine it devolved quickly after that, into driving around finding a grocery store open at that late hour, buying melons, and then wearing his martial arts gi top to keep from splattering watermelon on my silk blouse.

    Of course, this involved proper testing. We used three different types of melons ( canteloupe, honey dew, and last and toughest – watermelon). Are there pictures? Why, yes. Did I ever get a copy? Noooo, unfortunately not. Did we perchance get in trouble with cops? Luckily, I was aware of the car pulling up on the other side of the parking lot, and using his gi again we bundled up all the chunks strewn everywhere, and running quickly ( while giggling) tossed them into the garbage. So no.

    What made it for me, was sitting at a networking meeting the next morning, and realizing there was a bit of melon juice and a seed on the bottom of my shoe. No one can say dating in Kansas City doesn’t have its moments.

    Social skill weakness –

    I’ve got a lot of energy, and tend to come in resembling the presence of a dust devil or even Tasmanian devil. When I try to calm it down, I tend to go the exact opposite, and almost disappear. The other part of this is my energy tends to be fluttery – so always invited to parties, but have a hard time building real relationships both work and personal.

    So usually a visualization a friend gave me of a sailing boat paired with some test parameters I laid out, I’m going to test a different approach with one potential client and two newer clients who I want to be more committed. The reason for the boat imagery is this. People see a boat moving, they notice, the key in, and it’s image known for controlling the uncontrollable. If I can bring that level of thoughtful focus to my energy so people perceive my presence more that way, I’ll be able to develop deeper connections. More importantly, others will feel the desire to develop deeper connections.

    Ok, so my test is calling these three clients. I’ve mapped out key phrases and questions to steer the conversation ( Yes, I punned. Moving on. . . ) I’ve got mapped out end result, and goals of how I want the words I’m saying to make them feel. My goal is to remove their fears, and build an emotional connection. The other end result is all of them coming to our open house, the two current clients setting up more appointments, and the new potential client bringing her husband to the open house. I’m making these phone calls shortly, and will let you know how it goes.

    I’m also testing out the boat imagery for a networking lunch I’ve got on Wednesdays. I’m known there for flitting around, helping, being dynamic. Being that flitty dynamic isn’t getting the end result I need which is more clients, and more referrals. I’m going to set out a similar test, and consider what my attitude would be if I’m engaging others with a more thoughtful and targeted purpose like a boat navigating.

    The third test I’ve got coming up is doing a webinar being interviewed about our business. I’m going to take your suggestion, and over the next few weeks tape myself answering these questions. Then, I’ll play them back, go over where my energy, tone, movement, facial expressions, and pacing are good or need improvement. I’m not comfortable with recording myself, but know I need to see what I’m doing in order to correct and smooth it all out.

    Thanks for the continuous encouragement to test and learn. My business partner thinks it’s sometimes hilarious, but never disputes the results.

  164. I’d love to get free training!!

    My biggest socializing weakness is maintaining conversations with strangers. I’ll introduce myself to someone and at first I’ll ask a lot of questions but then the conversation often falls flat.

    For example, I went to an apartment warming party, a friend of my room mate’s. I started talking to this guy about Nooks, Kindles and just e-readers in general and in the middle of the conversation he completely turned away from me – utterly disengaged from everywhere I was saying. So, after a few seconds when I realized what had happened, I walked away and he didn’t even notice I had left.

  165. One of my biggest challenges is that I am not assertive enough.

    I progressed quickly in my career as a management consultant because of my hard skills, but now I’m facing a real career roadblock because I’m too timid and quiet in meetings, presentations and social events, especially with senior clients. I also avoid confrontation and awkwardness at all costs. This is a problem when your job is (A) to share your opinions with confidence and credibility, (B) disagree with people when necessary and convince them of your views, and (C) manage a team.

    I tell myself that I am just naturally more of a listener than a talker, but the reality is that I’m deeply afraid of saying something stupid / embarrassing / wrong or being ignored or not taken seriously. Ironically of course, being too quiet is the best way to be ignored and is therefore a totally self-defeating strategy. Even though I know this intellectually, changing my social patterns to be more assertive has been really tough.

    I’ve been practicing a lot though. The two most effective tactics I’ve tried are: 1) in every meeting I actively try to say something (no matter how lame) within the first 2 minutes. Usually the comment isn’t lame at all and irrespective it helps to make me seem and feel more confident/assertive.  2) Seeking confrontation in unthreatening situations (e.g. Complaining—constructively—in hotels, restaurants and stores, something I would never naturally do). Both of these have made me feel more comfortable being assertive, and even comfortable enough to introduce myself to new people in purely social situations outside of work, something I would naturally avoid. 

    Even though I’m not yet at the level I want to be, the deliberate practice has helped me to become more socially assertive and I can see the positive impacts of this in my career and elsewhere in my life.

  166. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest social weakness is having too much energy and being loud – loud with my voice and my body language. I exude too much unnecessary energy. My hands move too much, my facial expressions are animated, I talk too fast, I talk too loud. Its as if I am trying too hard to make an impression or to win a favor.

    And if I’m down a glass or two of wine, its worse!

    I recognize this and I know that the simplest, easiest thing for me to fix it is to control my voice. If I can control my voice, my expressions and my gesticulations will automatically take care of themselves.

    I have tried it and I am progressively getting better at it. I am consciously talking slower and softer. I am also starting to catch myself more often when I start talking too fast and automatically I slow myself down.

    This is still new though and I fall back to my wrong ways when I’m nervous\anxious or a little tipsy.

    Working on it. Slowly and steadily.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

    warmly,
    Zainab

  167. Hey ramit,

    My biggest social weakness is that I am passive listener. You can also say that I have your I I I syndrome. I do not comment on what other person said. More importantly I never compliment other person. Many times I am not even listening to what they said. I am just waiting for them to finish so I can start talking about myself. And I seem them loosing interest in what I have to say by rolling their eyes or looking away.

    As you can infer I do not remember any specific situation because I wasn’t listening. But all I remember is them saying to me “are you listening to me? I did not say xyz but I said abc.” This happened because I listen very little and I assumed the rest.

    The solution for this problem what I have found helpful is to compliment them. Or very least when commenting first acknowledge specifically what they said. Which shows I have been listening. But the problem I still have is for most people I meet I don’t have anything good to say. So I don’t compliment. Acknowledging is good solution but results with complimenting are way too good.

    I can give you real life example when I complimented a friend. I was talking to my friend and I saw other friends asking him for restaurant recommendations. I also went to eat at a restaurant with my friend and he told me which dish is good at what restaurant. Now let me tell you this guy was getting bored at what I have to say & rolling his eyes when I talk to him & looking away. I told him that he should start a food blog because he really knows good food. And I told him I have experimented with blogs before & he can put his blog on my web space. And I can help him set up and maintain his blog & all he has to do is write articles on simple word file. Then he not only listen to everything I said but he told me to keep writing blog posts which he will review for me. And he also paid for my food at the restaurant.

    My point is complimenting really works if done correctly. The only problem is I have trouble finding good qualities about other person.

  168. In social situations, I most frequently struggle with the following three things:

    1. Exiting conversations. For example, I seem to find myself in the situation where I introduce myself to someone, they introduce themselves, and then, I say something dumb like, “Cool,” and we stand there with our hands in our pockets, not really facing each other, but neither of us wanting to just walk away. In worst case scenario, I pull out my phone and check Instagram. LAME.

    2. As an introvert, give me an hour in a bar, and I want to kill myself because I’m so exhausted from talking and meeting people.

    3. In watching your video, I agree that telling stories is a great way to engage with people. I know some people personally who are great at telling stories and the social setting always benefits from their stories if they are told well. In talking with really close friends, I’ve noticed that I have some particularly funny and even interesting stories, but because I tend to notice a lot of details, I can lack the ability to boil the story down to the most important details and boil it down to the details that my audience would connect, relate, and identify with. I notice that some times people start to look down or pull out their phones as I’m telling a story.

    These things I am getting better at as I’m testing different approaches. I’ve been learning that asking people questions and making followup statements from their response is a great way to make people feel valued and it’s a great way to continue a conversation. I have had fun doing that.

  169. I am open and find it easy to engage with a wide range of people. However, I do pull back, or get nervous, when someone else that I’m speaking with, or someone part of a group, is more aggressive in telling stories/jokes or overtly outgoing. Then I’ll tend to back off. Also, if I need to depend on my short term memory for a list of points that I want to make then I clinch up because I have to use effort in remembering my points. In other words, I’m better at speaking extemporaneously.

  170. Hi Ramit,

    My weakness, is in telling stories, and sometimes going back into robotic monotone voice mode. It doesn’t happen all the time.

    I’ve noticed that when I go into a topic that I think is important or is useful to the other person, I go into Wikipedia mode, and talk like I’m lecturing someone. I know it’s boring, but I don’t know how to convey the information otherwise while not dumbing it down.

    Another weakness, is going from the small talk level of conversation to something more deep and engaging. For example, How do I leave a last impression on someone that I’ve med for the first time ? What would I have to do differently if one was in a professional setting, while the other was on a personal level (e.g. getting a woman attracted to me) .

  171. My biggest problem is always feeling like an outsider in a group. When it’s one-on-one, I’m pretty much OK at the conversation (though there’s work to do there too); however, most of the time when I want to start talking with someone, it’s in the context of a large group of his/her friends standing around, typically before or after an event, and I really can’t get “in” without feeling awkward.

    This happened about a month ago after an interesting lecture. A group of students, some of whom I knew and others of whom I really wanted to get to know, sort of formed a circle in the lobby to chat. I found it easy to make a comment to my friend standing next to me and ask him a question, but then he and I just started talking, with participation from just one or two others I already knew. In the end, the “group” was divided into two smaller groups, and the two people I really wanted to talk with in the first place eventually left without my ever exchanging a word with them.

    I guess I just find it too easy to talk to one or two people but really can’t comfortably and naturally assert myself in a crowd.

  172. My biggest weakness in social situations (and lecturing situations too) is repeating myself, or more precisely reinterpreting things I have already said.

    I am a fairly adept person in social situations and it has spoiled me. I expect people to laugh. I expect people to connect with me. I expect to put people at ease and keep them smiling. If I am not able to do that, I just doggedly keep trying. (Even though I am fairly certain this has never actually made anyone warm up to me.) I labor under this false belief that if I just come up with a better metaphor or a clearer way of explaining whatever, I’ll get that spark I want.

    Truthfully, I think it also plays into my love of words. I want to use the best wording possible for every idea I have. Instead of trying out each variation on a different person I get so excited about my new twist on something I just have to share it right then! My husband has learned to just interrupt and say, “Yeah, I get it.” (I also sometimes talk too quickly, could you guess?)

    At it’s worst, I feel like a comedienne telling the punchline again and again with different intonations and wording until someone grabs a hook and pulls her offstage.

  173. I’ve always wanted to be the slightly weird amusing guy with weird things to say and at the start, I was only the weird kid.

    See, I never paid attention to pauses, voice changes, body language, eye contact and reading other’s faces, so what I did was that I told a story quick and laughed. Turns out, that’s not how you tell a story. I was treated with silence.

    What was interesting was when I started listening in to how others could draw a crowd and study how they could make everyone stop talking and start listening by simply starting to tell a story.

    Since then, I’ve simply copied what they did and implemented it for myself at first before I started tweaking it to fit my personality. Today, I hold presentations and meet strangers daily for work and I know exactly what to do to get their attention.

    Now I urge others to imitate, tweak, perfect.

  174. Ramit,

    I’ve gone from working from large corporations to starting up my own raw dog food business. I love what I do now and comments from customers are very positive about my products. I’m scared to death to start a conversation with someone about what I do. My strategy is to develop and test stories about ingredients, science, benefits for a dog, but most of my attempts are so bad I’ve had dogs walk away from me. One actually fell asleep! (Person, not the dog.) The dog just started licking itself…

    I’ve been asked to do videos and go on a local TV station, but if I can’t do it in person I’ll bomb on TV and kill my business just by talking about it. Thanks for helping me understand some of feedback and listening skills on the video. I’ll keep practicing!

    Gary

  175. My biggest weakness is I have a sense of humour similar to yours and I say things that are hilarious but only to me or someone like you if they are in the room which is rare. So how can I be the average boring person “funny” ?? and manage to think before I speak without creating long pauses or a constipated look while Im going over possible responses in my head.

  176. Weaknesses – 1. I don’t know why I’m not that engaging. I start out talking to people who seem interested, then often they just move on someone else (party setting). I ask lots of questions but add in my stories too. What gives?
    2. I’m unsure about everything. What I’m wearing, which door to enter into, what drink to order. Where’s the rules and how come everyone else knows them but me?

    We just moved to a new town and really dont want these weaknesses to keep me from meeting new people.

    Storytelling-I told this story about my colleges friends and I stealing the theater’s leftover popcorn from near the dumpster and bring it back to the dorm to share with everyone (it was in a big clear garbage bag). We were sneaky and cool at the same time! Only to discover half-way into the bag that there was also candy wrappers and other things that they obviously swept off the floor. The story has been told a few times and always gets laughs.

  177. I’ve recently gotten into cooking and started a small kitchen fire the other day, meaning the paper towel in my hand went up in flames. To save my hand from getting burned, I threw the flaming paper towel not in the sink but on the floor where it really picked up. Naturally, I grabbed some celery from the counter and whacked it violently until it went out. Celery worked. Still working on my cooking skills and might need a fire safety class along with the social skills training.

    This story was the first to come to mind and typing it has made me reconsider my choice. I told some co-workers and definitely got some laughs. One person actually made me retell to someone else in the office who I didn’t really know. This post definitely made me think through other stories I could share with co-workers that wouldn’t leave them thinking I’m an idiot though. I used to get upset with my brilliant mom for presenting herself as the butt of the joke, and I am now trying to catch myself from continuing a self-deprecating social pattern. Thanks for helping me become more aware, take action and make changes!

  178. Hello Ramit,

    My weakness, when it comes to social skills, is that, like you, I ask to many questions, or talk too much and too fast, or tell jokes I only relate to. It is a way to make sure the conversation is going on and the people in front of me don’t feel awkward if they don’t know what to say. But I know it is bad, and now, thanks to you, I’ve realized that, not only it is really bad, but I need to stop doing so, and find new ways to keep having normal conversations with people. Maybe by letting them talk more, or letting the other one find the next subject of conversation…. I’m not sure, I’ll test some different things and see what’s working.
    Thank you for such a great challenging post.
    Natacha

  179. Hi Ramit.
    Thanks for sharing your story and hard earned wisdom.

    I spent many years as a caterer, so I’m used to being ‘busy’ in social settings and part of the background. I tend to wind up “in the kitchen at parties…” As my own host I focus on organizing people, food, setting, etc. — I hang back and watch, let other people have the stage/limelight. I feel safer being anonymous, and staying a bit removed.

    While I feel ok being in front of groups as an instructor, running workshops, etc. I feel awkward ‘being myself’ (ie not having a ‘role’) and connecting with a single person, or being part of a group. Something about the crowd atmosphere (room full of people I don’t know) really inhibits me.

    But even with friends, I tend to hang back and listen. Rarely allow myself the chance to express myself. Tend to give lots of information (and I am an inexhaustible fount of arcane facts, stories, ideas…)

  180. My biggest weakness has to do with my breathing – In high pressure situations I tend to hold my breath while talking and this leaves me out of breath for the duration of the conversation.

    For example, if I’m answering an interview question with a concise 30-45 second reply, I end up nearly choking on the last few words because I hold my breath while I speak. I spend more time thinking about trying to control my breathing than actually thinking about what to say and how to make good dialogue. Also, because I use my “listening time” to catch up on my breathing, I hardly remember anything of what the other person is saying by the end of the conversation.

    Recently, I received a phone call from a hiring manager for a phone interview and I really struggled with my breathing. I’m not sure if he was able to recognize it in my voice over the phone but I was having such a hard time breathing while answering his questions that I found myself taking big gasps for air and catching up on my breathing between questions.

    I’m not sure if this is common or not, but it’s by far my biggest issue right now. I’ve tried to talk slower and pause more frequently when I talk, but that hasn’t solved the issue. This is something I really need to correct so that I can spend more time focusing on the actual conversation. I know that this is likely happening as a result of stress/nervousness because these situations create a higher pulse, which require more air circulation and supply of oxygen but I can’t seem to get over it. From a psychology standpoint, I was wondering if it was a result of fear/discomfort and the body’s way of trying to retreat and go unnoticed (or at least a way of trying to minimize the amount of attention I get)? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks as always Ramit!

  181. Hey Ramit, my biggest problem is a really odd one. I’m generally pretty good in social situations, however, I have a tendency to treat experts or famous people no differently to anyone else, especially in situations where I should be giving them more respect. This has led to some awkward situations where I have teased people like my lecturers who then haven’t found the joke very funny. I feel this has the potential to cost me when interacting with people who I could learn from; where instead of being respectful, I can come across as rude, and to a degree, over familiar.

  182. I think my biggest weakness is that I sometimes come off as cold or not caring in conversations with strangers. The reason for that is, if after a few minutes I find my interlocutor slightly uninteresting (which is quite common), I don’t make an effort anymore to keep the conversation going. I usually don’t have a problem with silence, so if suddenly the person stops talking, I won’t make an effort to pursue the dialogue. I will not escape either, I’ll just stay there and make the other person feel uncomfortable. The problem with that is I often miss great networking opportunities because I’m too “harsh” or too selective, which leads me to quickly dismiss my interlocutor if they’re not immediately captivating.

  183. Hey,

    I love the way you actually managed to compliment yourself in the video, Ramit. Great job :)

    My biggest weakness ? I have trouble going out of my comfort zone when willing to meet new people.

    I don’t know if it’s because I’m afraid of failure or not (I guess it’s the case), but I’m almost ALWAYS doing things when I’m sure they’ll work. And I know I’m loosing tons of opportunities because of that, yet I still haven’t managed to work on it.

    You actually gave the example in the article below, but that’s a thing I’ve been through a lot : I’m hitting on girls that are slightly less attractive than those I really like because I want to have more chances of success. I know that sounds a bit harsh but it’s brutal truth. And that’s also why I ended up breaking up with my girlfriend. At that time, I knew I had work to do to improve myself and to get out of my comfort zone again and again, and I didn’t want to settle down (she wanted us to marry after a couple of years), because I felt “incomplete”, almost like a failure.

    Even though we spent a couple great years together, I’m guessing I made us lose a lot of time, just because of my lack of social skills.

    J.

  184. I love this post. It instantly reminds me of the movie “Hitch” where Will Smith is trying to help his client learn how to dance. Communication styles are definitely a form of dance & we could use some help with our moves.

    One of my personal social hangs-ups is stopping too long, mid conversation, to process before responding. This tends to happen when I either 1) want to react emotionally but am stopping myself to come up with a diplomatic response or 2) am super intrigued by the question or statement and want to process and offer some insight on what was said.

    It first came to me attention on a date. I was in the middle of an engaging conversation with my date when I suddenly stopped to internally process. I looked off to the side of his head, disengaged eye contact and took more than thirty seconds in silence to think. As a fly on the wall it must have been so awkward! My date said, “Uh, oh. Trina’s looking off into the distance, galaxies away, thinking faster than the speed of sound. I wonder when I’m going to get her back.” I thought, oh crap! That’s totally what I just did and thank goodness he liked me enough to point it out rather than blow me off. I tried to change the subject but from his body language I could tell that he liked our previous conversation and also was looking at me suspiciously to see if I was evading what was said. I see that men do this to me sometimes if they are either checking to see if they “won” conversations (power) or if if I am creating mistrust (because they felt vulnerable and I am trying to detach from the conversation so I can think).

    So, not only did I kill an engaging conversation, but I lost the power or possibly left him feeling vulnerable in the way I tried to switch topics. Yuck!

    This social hang-up can also affect me when I’m doing interviews on camera where editing is not allowed or live events. Seconds of silence seem like centuries on camera. Of course, my intentions are good- I’m trying to engage the audience and interviewer with great responses to their questions. However, I need to improve my timing or find a smooth way to change the conversation without killing it, and be able to re-address that topic later with that person after having sometime to think about it, because I genuinely felt it was so intriguing that I wanted to stop and process it.

  185. My biggest weakness with social skills is either being overly enthusiastic or not enthusiastic at all. For example, if someone approaches me about hot yoga, I might be very excited to learn about where they take class, if they like it in a heated room or not, or who their favorite teacher is. I can REALLY engage. Same thing goes with talking about government, politics, or business in general.

    Now—if a man calls me at work, telling me a spaceship landed in his backyard and I need to do something about it, then I get really frustrated, put the phone on mute, zone out, and can’t get past personality/mental illness/lack of education, or whatever it may be. I have improved at this in general, but it’s still something I struggle with. If I could nonchalantly let people roll of my back, I feel like I could conquer the world!

  186. I feel like I am fairly socially competent. However even though I think I am a fairly interesting person, I do not think I present myself in a very interesting light. I find I can talk to strangers without a lot of difficulty. It seems rare that those I have just met are riveted by the conversation. I cannot figure out if I am talking to people who are just boring and dull or if I am inadvertantly doing something to turn poeple off. I must admit at times it takes me a lot of words to get my point out :(

  187. Biggest social skills challenge: A Conflux (Confluence) of (1) Lack of Confidence… and (2) Jumping the Gun
    Here one thing I did: As an undergraduate journalism major interning at the Allentown Morning Call, I had to do “man on the street” interviews and quickly got over my fear of initiating conversations. Essentially, I had to choose: continue being shy and fearful, or (2) Put food on the table. So, reporter’s notebook in hand, I began to initiate conversations with random people on the street and ask them about, for example, the latest tax raise, gas prices, shootings in center city Allentown, etc.
    Here is an example: A few years later, as a mom and a journalist, I occasionally had to take my infant/toddler son with me (in a carrier or front pack) while I was conducting interviews. This sometimes made those initiating “man-on-the-street” interviews easier, and sometimes distracted (particularly females) from the questions I was asking.
    Here is what happened: Once during a man on the street interview my son was happily cooing at some interesting thing that caught his fancy while I was asking hard-hitting questions about the local Pontiac-enthusiast club, my son sneezed, the interviewee laughed, reminded of her own grandchildren, and gave him (and I) a ride in her antique 57 with a spit-fire grill, chrome plating and fancy 326 HO engine.
    Another time I was interviewing a professional organizer (over the phone) about her collaboration with a large publishing house. I expressed that it was great she saw a need for professional caregiver organizers for the “sandwich generation” caring both for elderly parents and raising children. She then overheard my son playing in the background and the conversation changed to children… then to Autism. I told her about the outline I had written for an organizer for overwhelmed parents of children who were recently diagnosed. She loved the idea and told me that if I submitted it to her, she would submit it to her publishers and possibly, maybe initiate an interview with a news program once the book/ organizer was published.
    Here is one thing I tried, did or did it not work? Well, I had really listened to Dorthy and reflected back to her comments regarding how important it was that she recognized organizers are essential for caregivers of elderly parents. She really appreciated the comment. This lead her to comment about caregivers of children with Autism (I was writing for the publication Therapy Times, and after hearing my son in the background, she learned I have a son with Asperger’s Syndrome) and the challenges they face. I agreed and then told her about the book/organizer outline I had written, including resources for parents in nearly every state of the US. (This began out of a forum that had originally provided me with insight and information before my son was officially diagnosed) People began coming to me with questions, and those people started giving my number to other parents who would call or email with questions. So I wrote it all down in order to send information out quickly to parents who needed resources asap to try to help their children.) I digress (a secondary problem: tangents.)
    To Summarize: I was presented with an amazing opportunity, I somehow managed to network by being genuinely interested in Dorthy’s work and her passion for helping others… then once I had a connection, I FROZE.
    I have tried to complete writing the organizer on numerous occasions. The problem has been: what flowed naturally before, is now fraught with automatic thoughts of “is this good enough” “this isn’t good enough” “This was just supposed to be helpful information” “this couldn’t become an actual organizer that people buy” “I started doing this to help people, its not right to try to profit from it” “Wait… I should at least try this…I have a son to feed, clothe, provide CAM treatments, keep in private school, buy replacement parts every time he takes the camera/ cell phone/Durga/EXO Heli/ClodBuster apart etc etc etc”
    Ramit, your story about being that person in the meeting room speaking, trying to implement a solution or suggest a process improvement when people seem to look down or check their watch is all too familiar. I have been in meetings where I am vaguely aware what I am saying is not quite hitting the mark… but I don’t know how to say it differently.
    I would be so grateful for an opportunity to learn improved social skills, I certainly don’t relish the idea of writhing while seeing my social skills deficits on tape. However, learning precisely what those failings are and having the opportunity to improve them sounds like the perfect way to move forward in an effective manner that would break down the barrier.

  188. I generally feel pretty confident in both professional and social situations, but there is one particular situation in which my confidence plummets and I find myself feeling very awkward: when I attend events or conferences where I perceive “everyone” to be a successful entrepreneur – much more successful than me. In these cases I feel like I can’t offer as much value as other people in the room; I’ll approach people and talk to them, but once we introduce ourselves I start to feel really awkward because I’m embarrassed to talk about my own business (I started doing SEO and online marketing consulting about 7 months ago and I have 4 clients). I feel like the person that I’m talking to will “see through me” and won’t want to waste his/her time with an amateur.

    Here’s a specific example:
    I was at a conference for social entrepreneurs (people who start businesses that serve a social purpose as well as generating profits). I’m not running a social startup, but I do have some experience volunteering abroad and I’m interested in the space because I would like to start that kind of business at some point.

    I met a few people and once our conversation got past the point of introductions I would feel awkward answering questions about what I was working on, because I felt like the person I was talking to was going to judge me or my (at that point) fledgling business. I felt especially awkward talking about ideas that I had for social businesses, because I felt like those ideas just wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of someone who actually knows what their doing. The end result was that the conversations became one-sided (I ask lots of questions but seemed uncomfortable answering questions) and I only made one lasting connection despite spending all day and night with the same group of people (there was an after party).

    What I’ve tried: basically my approach thus far has been to throw myself into a lot of these situations and just practice. I recently moved to Tokyo and didn’t know anyone, so I attended a lot of different kinds of events, and I’ve improved a bit by having an interesting back story (why I left my job/Canada to move to Japan). Once we get beyond that part though, I still run into the same problems talking about my business and feeling awkward and intimidated.

    Even as I grow my business and start to feel more “legitimate” I know that there will always be people who are more successful and knowledgeable than me, and that THOSE are the people that I should be talking to and learning from. What blows me away is that the skills that I have in other stressful social situations (going to events where I don’t know anyone, dating, job interviews, informational interviews) seem to evaporate when I’m in this particular situation.

    I’m an Earn1K student and I previously used the Briefcase Technique to successfully negotiate a big raise in a new job. I know that I would be able to use media/social skills training to really take my skills to the next level and grow my business into a proper full-time consultancy by making better contacts and communicating my value better, even when I’m intimidated by the success of the other people in the room.

  189. I am very young for the job I’m in (Data Manager) and in my field (Politics), age and experience are seen as synonyms. One of my various responsibilities at work is attending and work events (read: fundraisers) we host, so I spend a lot of time mingling.

    My biggest weakness socially, that I’ve noticed at these events, is feeling inferior. I’m working the event and I don’t make much money. The people attended these events are very wealthy and successful. When I first got this job, this feeling of inferiority manifested in me hyping-up what I did. I thought, then, that impressing these people would be the key to good social interactions. Unfortunately, I saw that this strategy wasn’t the right way to go. On one occasion (that haunts me), I was boasting to a guy that happened to be the director of the national party committee’s research and data department. While he nodded politely and we carried on a conversation, I knew afterwards I didn’t impress him and blew a good opportunity to make a very valuable connection.

    I’ve been trying lately to go in the opposite direction. I spend most of my conservation time at events asking people about themselves and I keep my answers fairly short. This has been slightly more successful. The biggest benefit of this strategy is that I don’t feel like a huge douche afterwards. However, I’m having trouble now keeping conversations going.

  190. My weakness is being too mean or too teasing too early in, and always being seen as a “bitch” or “sarcastic.”

    I immediately start giving people shit when I meet them. I can’t seem to help myself! For example I was at a local networking event a few months ago and was having an ok conversation and apparently made fun of this guys penguin tie. (I don’t remember doing this btw). A few months later ran into the same guy at the same event and he introduced me as “that bitchy girl who gave me shit about my dead grandma’s tie.” I know he was joking, but it was still a little bit of an ouch moment.

    What I do now is when I’m going to tease someone I either excuse myself from the conversation, or try and say (and think) something nice about the person. The results are extremely awkward. I also wrote on my watch band “Nice.” As in be nice to people.

    Guess it’s time to go back to the drawing board on that one. :(

  191. Trey Rodriguez Link to this comment

    It took high school, college, and my first 2 years in the workforce testing and improving my presence to create what stands before you today. The good news is that I improved tremendously and my outwardly displayed confidence rose faster and more consistently than sales of Viagra in the early 2000s. The bad news is that my effort to include more animation and expressiveness in my conversations has left me with Mike Wazowski syndrome. Entertaining, yes. At times over the top, yes. Taken seriously, no. Balance may be the antidote, but to the drawing board one must go.

    http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Mike_Wazowski

    The second most blaring deficiency is not immediately realized. I have been told by countless women (countless by a 4 year old… who can’t count past ten) that I am a GREAT listener. (Sigh) Every time I hear it, I tilt my head down ever so slightly, present a smirk, and reply, “Only because you’re make it so easy”. Every girl (obviously no guy would ever make that comment… scratch that, I do recall my gay co-worker making that same comment. I wish I could say my response was different…) thinks that she is the most interesting woman in the world. Now hear comes the radiation kill (painful & delayed). Fast forward a few weeks and they are retelling some mundane aspect of their life and expect me to conjure up a prior conversation from 4 dates ago. Cripes!! I was only pretending to listen. I’m not a magician pulling memory rabbits out of hats.

    So there you have it. Mike Wazawski syndrome and fake listening with the inability to recall “important” information.

  192. My biggest weakness is calibrating my job description when talking to different audiences.

    I started as a policy analyst and am now a policy director, but when I’m outside of audiences that are familiar with those terms, I haven’t found great ways of having people understand what I do.

    The best solution I’ve tested is starting broad with something like:

    “I’m a policy director at a non-profit”

    Then I give them room for follow-up where I can provide more detail or change the subject if that’s enough.

    I’m pretty sure that works, but I can’t tell if people aren’t asking follow-ups because they don’t want to know more information or because I’m not presenting it in an interesting way.

  193. Hi Ramit,

    Thank you for the opportunity.

    My biggest weakness is that I’m usually worried about what other people are thinking about me and what I should say next that I’m not staying “in the moment”.

    I have to make a super conscious effort to actually LISTEN to what the other person is saying instead of trying to figure out what I’m going to say next, especially before there’s an awkward pause.

    I know a huge part of this has to do with me being self-conscious and a natural introvert but it’s something that I’m always working on and would love some professional help to improve.

    I also want to say that I find it so interesting that you commented in the video on how other people inaccurately perceive you and don’t get what your work really is about. I used to be one of those people.

    When I first started reading your posts I almost unsubscribed because I thought, “What the hell is this cocky guy talking about?”

    But being a fellow psychology lover with a psyc. degree myself I decided to hang on and dig deeper and I’m so glad I did. Thank you!

    Jenna

  194. I have no issues with approaching and starting up a random conversation with strangers. I actually think I have a bit of a strength in this area. My biggest weakness comes in transitioning the conversation from introductions and idle chit chat to the “hook” that turns it into a real, genuine conversation. In your video above, you demonstrate this skill with your “hot sauce” transition. I’ve had some wonderfully awkward attempted transitions (I’ve had some so bad, that what could have been a networking opportunity turned into a “I hope I never see this person again” situation). I have been lucky enough to have had 1 or 2 experiences that have been hands down excellent interactions. I never thought of this as a specific skill before, but more as just finding the “right person” to have a connection with. It’s more fun to think about it as a skill. Turns the whole situation from an inherent trait that I can make excuses about, into the chance that I could be one suave cat (with enough practice).

  195. I can initiate a conversation, but continuing it in an interesting way fails me. My brain seems to slow down. If I’ve met a lawyer, all I can think of are dumb lawyer jokes. If it’s a nurse, my brain is filled with, “Ick! Not needles!” So I turn to the food, the weather or something else safe and boring. I don’t wind up getting to the know the person well at all. I really want to feel more comfortable switching to a topic that will interest them or lead them to something that will interest them.

  196. Oh man, I’m so glad you “went there,” Ramit. This stuff is so important.

    Being a branding person + working from home for the last 2 1/2 years hasn’t been a great combination for me. I completely “get” how important personal presentation is– from what you wear to to your demeanor to your word choice. It all adds up to create the impression that people have of you, and first impressions are hard to change. So I understand what a superpower good social skills can truly be. Unfortunately, though, ruminating on all of this has royally backfired for me in the form of fear.

    Sadly, I’ve held back from attending certain professional events. I even refused an interview once from a fellow blogger who was very much a fan of mine because I was just too afraid of making a bad impression on-camera. I’m often jealous of the relationships so many bloggers have because they are willing to put themselves out there in ways I haven’t.

    I am making a small effort right now, at home, to improve. I know doing some video would increase conversion for my blog, so I’ve been filming some, hoping that they’ll soon become good enough to post. My husband and I also happen to be working on a baby startup together that is entirely media-worthy, so that’s a real motivator as well.

    All the whining and “me”-talk aside, I love to watch your videos, Ramit, and it’s difficult to even believe you weren’t always this composed. Any professional media training that you stand must be top-notch! Would absolutely love the opportunity to work with such amazing professionals should you see it fit to pick me!

    Thanks again,

    –Stephanie

  197. Hey Ramit! Is the first time I receive your newsletter and I must say that I love it. Thank you for all the funny stories and the advices you gave.

    This week I’ve been talking to my mom about my most common mistake when engaging myself in a nice conversation. You’ll see. I like meaningful conversation, the ones that you feel that you connect with the other person either if you are talking about personal stuff or business. My problem is that I get too passionate about it and I may start raising my voice. The worst part comes when the conversation is with a friend that is telling me some heavy sh***. Instead of listening and being comprehensive, I empathize as much as if I was the one living the things my friend is telling me about. I get angry (but not with them) and start yelling and telling him what to do, what not to do, what is wrong, bla bla bla.

    As my mom said, I have good advices and good things to say, I also have most of the social skills, I think, I just can get over this way of responding to others’ awkward things. I’ve even ask to a friend that knows how to really listen to people to help me to speak softer, so I can really send my message out there. I know that if I get this way people reject me, or is harder for them to like me and keep the things I tell them. They know that I have good intentions and that the message is good, I just have to get improve the WAY I say things.

    Once again, thank you so much. I can’t wait to read another one of your mails. They are very original and fresh.

    Sincerely,
    Daniela

  198. My social skill weakness is constantly chiming in with “my own take” or my own personal narrative on a story. For example, if someone was describing a movie they saw during the weekend, I’d routinely cut someone off and start discussing my point of view, my two cents, my personal story related to the movie, etc.

    In order to combat this, I’d distinctly tested combating this urge by with two items. First, I will only offer my opinion on something if asked about it. For example, if someone was discussing Silver Linings Playbook, I’d only chime into the conversation if asked directly something regarding the movie. Also, when formally asked to discuss, I’d keep my personal antidote shorter than the person who originally discussed the movie.

    While some people might find this to be too detailed, a pet peeve my girlfriend noticed was my interruption of someone’s story to interject “myself.” This works, and it’s also made me a better listener.

  199. Hi Ramit,

    I think my biggest problem taking control when I am out-alphaed. I hate that. Over the past years, I have practiced stories, practiced body language, listened to friends, looked at comedians etc etc. I want to be able to catch everyone’s attention whenever I need to. Why? Because I live to try and inspire other people.

    For that reason, every time someone else comes in and steals the show, I get annoyed and I turn small in a way that if I want to grab the attention back I just turn weird and am being perceived as weird. WHAT HAPPENED? It’s like someone else just steals all your mojo.

    This translates into other social situations as well, talking to girls, talking to people who are older and have more experience than me etc. I just turn weird, like in those situations I can’t be the regular me.

    I want to take control Ramit and even though I make progress, I don’t do it as quick as I want.

  200. Patrick Jaszewski Link to this comment

    One of my biggest problems when talking with people is being expressive and interesting while not coming off as bragging about myself and the things I do.

    One recent example was after I returned to work from visiting Istanbul for a vacation, my co-workers naturally asked me how my trip was. I said, “it was great – I had an awesome time” while they stare at me and expect me to go on further. I proceed to list all of the fun things I did and wonderful food I tried, but I can see that their eyes glaze over quickly and I can tell that they are not entertained at all.

    The next time someone asked me, I tried to go into more detail about certain activities, but the reaction was not much better. While I deliver my story, I get the feeling that I am seen as just bragging. I don’t know whether that is actually their perception of what I am doing or not, but that is what is running through my head. So far, I haven’t been able to figure out how to portray my stories in exciting interesting ways and I keep getting stuck in the just-listing-the-things-I-did dull repetition.

    It is frustrating to me because I KNOW that I do interesting things, but I have not yet figured out how to TELL my stories in interesting ways. I bought and read “The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons to improve this issue. So far, it has helped when I convey stories to my family and closest friends, but it seems that nerves are getting in the way when I try to convey my stories to colleagues or acquaintances. I will keep working on it.

  201. I have several social weaknesses that I’ve attempted to correct, but I feel that when I correct one thing, another weakness starts to surface, so it’s like trying to play the whack-a-mole game, which is a game that I’m good at. When it comes to tackling these weaknesses though, it’s not as fun because when I reflect on my own social image and how I look like in the bigger picture, I can feel so awkward that I just want to crawl into a hole. Being sufficiently animated and engaging is the biggest challenge for me, because I know that while I have content and a good balance of questionining and listening, it’s trying to be as human as possible that I have a hard time projecting. For instance, I realized that my body language in general is not in harmony when my emotional expression, because when I start to move as in waving my hand slowly, the listener would shift their gaze to my hand and start staring at my hand. Then I tried to pocket my hands and let my arms relax, but that ends up getting me into a situation where I’m stuck in listening mode and can’t extract myself from the conversation or turn it into a more balanced interaction. I tend to be a monotone speaker when I’m with strangers and people that I do not know well, so if I try to change my intonation and be less of monotonal, it sounds artificial to me and I know that if I’m not convinced, whoever that’s with me in the conversation probably can detect that.

    The reason that I think I hold a pretty stiff and unanimated body position is because I feel tense about finding a topic with a stranger for which I can relate to the person and build a true connection from the small chat. A lot of times I feel myself tense up when people launch into detailed sport discussions, TV references of shows that I don’t watch and most likely have never heard of (I am just not a TV or sport person), since I do not like to surround myself with alcoholics (I mean people who are avid fans of alcohol at semi-professional mingling sessions), I often have to overcome the feeling of locking myself into this “I’m going to feel so alienated and not going to fit in at all” presumption. It takes both skills of going with the flow and to direct the conversation with questions when appropriate, but with me not being able to even relax my shoulders and neck, I know that I can’t appear to be a natural, since I probably over analyze things on the spot too much. Correction and improvement is definitely an ongoing process.

  202. I’ve never been uncomfortable at a party or event even if i don’t know anyone. I mean I’m the one starting conversations, I ask questions, I listen, make people laugh. I small talk in the street, the supermarket, the elevator…I like to be nice to strangers and make their day brighter. Then, like you said, as a woman i’ve learned to end conversations since i’m 13 but…the difficult part for me is to talk about myself. i’m sooo afraid of what other people will think and that then might not like me, it’s ridiculous! This is why i love your idea of the story tool box :-) I had never considered writing stories + testing them to feel more self-confident.

  203. as per usual i am left thinking how the f*** did i not realise some of this stuff. I think my biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is that my expectations of myself compared to what i feel others see does not stack up.

    Have you ever had that thing happen where you think youre about to tell a really funny story, after all when it happened it was the most ridiculous thing that ever happened to you. And then…no one laughs, not a giggle, chuckle or chortle, all you can hear is akward silence and youre like oh sh** i bombed. so then the next thing that comes out of your mouth is…”oh, I guess you had to be there”.

    SO my challenges with social skills seem to be that I am not funny. Taking into account what I have learnt today lets see what I can do to fix that.

    I watched the creativelive workshop Ramit, I was there, I did do a half laugh but it really wasn’t all that funny as you stated. But now I know…If you have to practise then its perfectly ok for me to do so too. Thanks :)

  204. I think that one of my biggest challenges is assuming that I’m burdening the other person by engaging them in a conversation – maybe they’re too busy, maybe they don’t want to talk with me, etc. Also, I think I awkwardly cut off conversations because of the reasons mentioned above – really, I don’t know sometimes when to perceive the conversation is over.

  205. Hi Ramit, you are really good at engaging people, giving your readers the opportunity for meaningful feedback as well as involving a comp. I find it excellent and also the fact that you make your readers aware that their feedback will be read(maybe not by you but it’s read anyway) excellent.
    My own failure in conversations is although being fairly active socially, I find it easy to talk and listen, my thing is that I need to be more confident when talking to possibly prospective clients or even clients that I work for.
    Keep up the great work, many thanks,
    Lee

  206. I am definitely a story teller – there’s few things I like more than shooting the shit with interesting people who can tell good stories. Most of my friends have that in common – they are all good story-tellers as well. I love it.

    So I have a lot of stories I tell probably too frequently, although I am careful to try not to repeat stories. Here’s a recent one. My wife and I decided to take my son to the zoo recently. Our son is 2 and he’s just learning how to speak in longer sentences. He loves animals and has always loved going to the zoo, although we don’t get to take him as often as we’d like.

    So we’re taking him to the zoo and we’re talking about all the animals we’re going to see – elephants, tigers, giraffes, etc. Then we ask him. “Hey Mason, what animal are you most looking forward to seeing?”

    His answer: “Elmos.”

    Needless to say, he was a little disappointed we never saw the Elmos cage.

  207. My biggest weakness in social situations is guiding the conversation into things that will make it interesting and valuable. I’ve gotten better at starting conversations most of the time and I’m alright and focusing on them and asking questions but they start to peter out because I don’t know what to bring to the table besides questions. I guess I don’t know how to balance rambling on about what I am doing and asking too many questions.

  208. I think my biggest weakness is getting over the initial awkwardness of talking to a stranger. Maybe it’s some lingering “stranger danger” phobia from when I was a kid, but I just don’t feel comfortable around people I don’t know. With my friends, I’m the life of the party, but if I don’t know you, I clam up. I try to get out and meet people every day, but it’s a struggle.

  209. New year’s eve, I’m at a local bar in my (very) small hometown. The place is packed because it was raining and cold outside. We’ve all got our champagne in hand, ready to celebrate the new year. I’m there with a friend of mine and don’t know many other people there, so I freeze up and wait for my friend to finish chatting before I can even think about approaching someone.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened. I have a hard time striking up conversation or even introducing myself to people I don’t know, especially in these crowded situations where there are a ton of people. I feel like they all already have someone to talk to and don’t want to be bothered.

  210. My biggest weakness is a love for story, whether it’s telling my own or hearing someone else’s — even when they go on and on and on. I find myself listening to other people’s stories for way longer than I should. I’m honestly interested in the story but I think my reactions are contributing to the storyteller rambling. I tend to ask a lot of questions, to dig into motivations or understand something new to me (I am working on my own storytelling skills so I’m always looking for characters, plot twists, narrative paths). While this is somewhat beneficial, at some point I realize that I’ve been listening for a long while and I’m now (1) wasting my time as the story has gotten too detailed or derailed and (2) unable to get the person talking, who I’ve helped incite into a full bore ramble, to wrap it up quickly.

    Part of this is certainly due to my own tendency to tell long stories and get wrapped up in details and sidebars. I feel like if I can work on recognizing my own storytelling rambling, and how to wrap it up, then I can interact better with other storytellers.

  211. I’m horribly nervous approaching people and initiating conversations where I know I can gain networking / possible job advantages. Basically, selling myself.

    I’ve had people at all levels of the business rave about my photography skills, solid critiques, etc… but for some reason, unless I’ve already gotten to a scheduled, one-on-one meeting – I tend to be bad at casually introducing myself and stearing the conversation towards what I have to offer as a photographer.

    When I do have opportunities in public, I tend to rush through details, I often let others dictate the pace of the conversation. When I’ve had a chance to schedule a meeting, I’m usually pretty good. It’s when I’m caught off-guard in public that I flounder.

    I need to be better at always being prepared to be the best version of myself, I guess.

    Great material to kick off the new year, Ramit!

  212. One of my weakness I have socially is standing in front of an audience. I will clam up and forget what I’ve said or what I’ve been asked. For example, just finished my defense to graduate and listening back (recorded it) I was shocked that I had to ask a few questions to be reworded because I didn’t HEAR what was asked. I don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention. Though i believe that I have powerful social skills on a one-on-one bases.

    As for your advice on small talk, thank you. I need to remind myself to be more genuine in this type of dialog. I tend to find it trite and I am sometimes short with bankers and retailers that seem to be asking how my day was… I know they don’t care but understand the strength of being positive instead of negative.

    Additionally I need more stories in my toolbox. I have a few though. I need to make a list of different stories that are needed in life to entertain a wide audience (peers, professionals, clients, and conservative people). I have a few stories that are okay because I LOVE telling them but are not for everyone because they are silly or self deprecating. Which are great for close friends because they are raw and humanistic. For instance, at a work party I unknowingly stepped into a lot of dog shit and covered both of my shoes in it. But only realized later while tromping around my bosses amazing house! Geez right? I lived the nightmare and awkwardly survived it. The response usually is a sympathetic but also ‘no-way’ or ‘I can’t imagine’ shocked response. It’s always followed with chuckles then their most embarrassing moment.

  213. Argh! My biggest weakness in the social skills is that I have a tendency to run away from conversations. For instance, if the person I’m talking to seems awesome (socially skilled, intelligent, AND witty), I feel so incapable of keeping up that I always try to end the conversation and to get away so that the person won’t realize how much of a dunce I am. I think it has more to do with insecurity issues, but if there’s a way of making social skills compensate for a little lack of intelligence and ineptitude, I’m game. Second weakness, inability to keep conversation going. Usually I rely on their body language and their responses, but if they’re not responding with any material I can work with, I become very awkward and silent.

  214. For me I guess it’s simply that I’m struck by a debilitating fear whenever I know that I’m going to be in a situation where I’m going to have to speak with someone I’ve never spoken before. Be it networking or a social occasion, being self-employed means that I have no-one other than myself to hold to account (ok other than the family) so if I can get out of it I often do. Failing that I will wander around, avoiding eye contact and trying to pick up any snippets of info I can overhear or brochures I can take away with me.

    It’s stupid, I know. I mean these are not situations where my life is at risk. I’m not about to get mugged by the person at the reception desk or have the whole room run at me with knives and yet it feels like I’m in real danger on some level. This week I took Ramit’s challenge and I managed to chat to the guy at the garage which, although the conversation died pretty quickly, was, in itself, a huge achievement for me. I mean I’m a guy so I’m supposed to know something about cars, right?

    My upcoming marketing strategies now focus on me building relationships with other businesses in my city so I’m going to have to face that fear. It’s the only way I’m going to get out of the situation I’ve let myself get into.

    Thanks for your help Ramit.

  215. Hi Ramit,

    I’m not naturally born to be an outgoing person but practice has made me up to a point that I’m comfortable talking to others but having a hard time relating and understanding the effects of what I convey.

    It’s partly a question about what, but more about how does the person experience what I am saying. I tend to use voice, tone and or body language that could be experienced in a bad way but I sincerely don’t mean it like that.

    And because this is rooted in my very core, I find it hard to cope with because I cannot see the mistakes I make.

    Your newsletter provides me with lots of ideas both creatively and socially, you inspire me like not many artists can and I consider you an artist.
    Thank you.

  216. My biggest challenge in conversations is asking too many questions, not talking enough, and not taking control of the conversation more often. Unless I can sense that the person I’m speaking with WANTS me to take control because they feel awkward or passive, just to drive the conversation back on course (while secretly hoping they start talking and taking control of the conversation the entire time. XD).

    But I gotta tell you that one skill that I’ve honed to perfection is holding my ground in a conversation. Years of being sexually harassed as a massage therapist was actually great training to stand my ground in confrontational conversations and situations, while still somehow keeping it lighthearted enough for them to not get aggressive or angry when I told them that no, I would NOT “love them long time”. The acupuncture clinic I was working at was also getting almost no business at the time, so I had the task of dealing with this sexual harassment on an almost weekly basis, while simultaneously keeping them entertained enough to get an actual massage so we could keep their business (and also I kind of didn’t want to starve to death). Although they would usually never tip since they didn’t get what they REALLY wanted. Bastards. XP

    I also sometimes avoid speaking and voicing my opinions without thoroughly thinking over the subject matter first and formulating my opinions on the matter. The internet has been a TREMENDOUS boon in working on improving my social skills, as I’m able to carefully consider what I want to say before I say it, editing it when need be. Thing is, that option doesn’t exist in the real world. I’ve improved IMMENSELY from the way I was in high school, and some of my friends from my new church were even SURPRISED TO FIND OUT THAT I’M AN INTROVERT. They were actually kind of shocked about it, which I thought was pretty flattering, actually. XD

    I’m so grateful to have this training on how to further improve my social skills, it’s an awesome motivator to get out there, hone my skills, and test the results again. I’ll take action with what I’ve learned this week and let you know my results via e-mail. Thanks so much again, Ramit. =)

  217. Chris Minchella Link to this comment

    My biggest problem is keeping a conversation going when I don’t have a pretext for conversation other than wanting to talk to someone.

    Example: My friend is getting his masters and so I’ll occasionally go down to his university to hang out. Inevitably, there’s a party we end up going to which is all his colleagues as well as an assortment of random grad students. I’m not in grad school, my undergraduate degree is not in the same field as these people, and I have a girlfriend so I can’t just default to meaningless flirting (although sometimes I’ll try this just so I’m not staring at them in silence). I’ll try small talk but ultimately, I don’t see these people as potential business interests, I have plenty of friends and even if I was looking to expand my social circles, these people are physically too far away for me to associate with them on any meaningful level. I feel like I’m using up my Dunbar number with filler by saying anything more than “Hey dude do you have a bottle opener?”.

    So I guess realistically (and it’s kind of disgusting to say it this way but at least it’s honest) my real problem is “How do you talk to someone you don’t want anything from?”

  218. I tend to interrupt people in a group setting. I was at a dinner at a friend’s house the other day, and someone was giving her opinion on a couple dating each other. I completely agreed with her so much that I couldn’t wait for her to finish to say just how much I agreed.

  219. After reading your newsletter for a while now, I thought this is the time to write a comment. I find the social thingy really intriguing, but also really scary.

    My biggest social weakness must be that I’m not as self-confident as I tend to look. As a child I was being raised by my father from the age of 13 and he never told me that I did something better than he expected. As a result, I did my best to make and impress friends at school and finding appreciaton that I did not get at home. At first I would sit lonely in a corner – I think you would call that “being a social weirdo”, later on I would bear up and stand my ground, even while I was not feeling confident at all.

    Now, years later, I am still a little scared of being hurt when I position myself in a vulnerable situation. Most of the time I’m subconsciously withdrawing myself from conversations when I’m not sure about what I am going to say. Sometimes I’m deliberately entering such a situation and it actually turns out fine most of the time, although I find it hard and sometimes tiring. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking “don’t be a pussy and just do it” – but that obviously is not working for me up to this moment.

    Actually, when you would ask my friends or colleagues, they would say that I’m a really confident guy. Last week I had a conversation with a girl I just met last month in church (she really is too young for me, but it was flattering) and she told me what a nice guy I was, that she admired my talents and that she didn’t understand why I haven’t got a girlfriend. I’m not really looking out for a girlfriend at this moment as I am still studying part-time and want to concentrate on that, but taking the compliment it learned me something about how I come across. I think this is what you mean by “testing a story”, in this case testing my first impression on people I don’t know that well.

    I want to know and practice how I can use this positive image in my advantage. Probably the first thing to do is become more aware of the situations I am in, so I can choose what I want my next step to be, rather than just sneaking out because it feels convenient. The part of the video with the “WoW geek student” is a really great example of what you can do with a conversation when you’re aware of what is going on. Thanks for sharing.

  220. I love the sobering self assessment promoted by these questions.

    I love social interactions and testing out different Q&A’s for different social situations. I worked in clubs for a while and found that asking a ridiculously random and not necessarily deep question like “hey, can i ask you something?…what size of shoe are you?” or comment on some part of a girls outfit that was more discreet would often get you a very clear reaction of this guy is different and interested in me. I would try these types of scripts again and again just for fun with no other motive other than to gauge the reaction it received.

    I try to always be confident in new social situations and meeting new people but I do have a few weaknesses that I have noticed especially on introductory phone calls(cold calling) for work, I feel that I can’t express myself fully as I can when I am meeting people in person. Some stutters are thrown in here and there and one mistake leads to nerves and insecurity. I’d like to add that I am not a total weirdo but perhaps because I can’t gauge the reaction of the person I am talking to over the phone it throughs me. This is definitely an area that I need work on. So tomorrow in work I am going to attempt a cold call for new business and fit in a new story that I’ve never used before. Its not amazing or anything but random and negative that could make my job harder to sell a certain type of apparel.

    I sell and source merchandise branded in many different ways so I will fit this story in and let you know how it goes down tomorrow at some point.

    Target: To try and sell waterproof jackets and insert the following statement but reassure the potential customer that this will not happen with the product.

    “I bought a waterproof jacket before for sailing and loved this jacket but after a few wears I decided to wash it to bring it back to its new state. After a wash I realised that I wanted to wear this jacket the next morning so I put it the dryer. Unfortunately when I went to put it on I couldn’t get my hands in the sleeves, when I looked in I could see something like tape so I pulled it out to get my arms in and binned the tape. The next day whilst wearing the jacket it started to rain and my nice new waterproof jacket leaked and I got soaked. Moral of the story be careful when washing these jackets and don’t let a 28 year old guy put your waterproof jacket in the dryer”

    Its not a great story but i’ll post a reply as to the reaction. Live Ramit Sethi experiments

  221. 1. A STORY:

    I have a friend who is a pharmacist and the manager of a big chain pharmacy branch. Every year during flu season, vaccines makes pharmacies some serious money.

    So a little while back, there was a fire at my friend’s pharmacy. After everyone had been evacuated, my friend realized they’d left flu vaccines inside and actually ran *back into the burning building* to get the vaccines.

    2. REACTION: I told this story in a meeting with my manager, her manager, and several other people above me–everyone cracked up. This story came up in the context of a discussion we were having (small talk & chatting informally before the meeting began–key to relationship building) about the killer flu that’s going around this year.

    2. Do you know that person at a party who joins a group and then almost immediately after, the group disperses just to get away from them? I was that social wrecking ball. I used to be the most offputting, socially awkward weirdo in the world. I decided at the end of high school that this was going to hinder my ability to do anything in life effectively, so I implemented a plan to change that. This plan included:

    -extensive reading and researching about social skills, body language, and other related topics like Pick up Artists (even though I’m female, a lot of their material is geared towards improving guys’ social skills and thus applicable to me, even if our goals aren’t exactly the same)

    -finding the most socially skilled people I could meet in college, observing what they did, analyzing it, and mimicking to see what worked for me and what didn’t.

    -Making two socially skilled and self-aware people into some of my best friends so I could observe them AND ask them to explain why they do the things they do. Then, when I tried to implement their practices, they would watch and give feedback on what worked/what didn’t (often gruesome, but absolutely key to my improvement).

    -Experimenting/practicing my social skills constantly on my own in various settings: school, professional, purely social. After reaching a certain skill level, this became more helpful because I could guage how a given social interaction was going and pinpoint when it started to go wrong. I also deconstruct with my close friends, after the fact, and ask them what they think happened.

    As a result of years of hard work and study, I’m very socially skilled; it’s what got me my job, my friends, my great life. I can start up a conversation with virtually any stranger around the world (and have). Still, there’s always room for improvement and fine-tuning. For example, Ramit’s tip on asking an unrelated question to transition to a different topic when the discussion about jobs/careers dries up is a great one; I’m going to start generating off-hand, moderately entertaining questions about the surroundings to have in my back pocket from now on.

    3. My biggest weakness, which I also wrote about in the survey Ramit sent out, is creating a relationship after the first meeting. I don’t know how to take a nice conversation in a random place (party, subway, tour group in Italy) and transform it into a more meaningful, ongoing friendship (or a decent work contact). There are a few people I’ve met randomly that have become ongoing friends after the first meeting, but I’d say it’s maybe 1 out of 10. I’m not entirely certain if that is a good ratio and a certain attrition rate should be expected, or if I’m failing to do something (follow up properly) which is causing this to happen.

    Part of the problem with trying to create an ongoing relationship is that there’s no built-in opportunity to see and reconnect with them like there is in a work or school context. I have to specifically schedule time and invite them out to do something, which can be sometimes difficult if I don’t know them that well and don’t know what they like to do/don’t like to do. This can also be difficult with more professional/work contacts, when it may seem a bit too social/casual/date like.

    Things that I have tried:
    -Handing out my business card.
    RESULT: this rarely does anything since most people take it, look at it, and then lose it. There are some exceptions–usually Asian people look me up on Linkedin literally 10 minutes after we say goodbye (I am Asian, so this isn’t too surprising). However, this is a good way to get someone’s business card and information in return without directly asking for it, so I think I’ll limit doing this to people I might want to proactively reach out to myself.

    -Friending someone on Facebook on my smartphone during/at the end of our conversation.
    RESULT: I’ve only done this a few times and it seems to work slightly better in that it generates an opportunity for spontaneous chatting if we’re both online (I’m rarely online, so it’s not a huge opportunity) and it gives both of us a chance to check out each others’ profiles and learn about each other in an unobtrusive way if we want to. Also, the photo helps people remember what I look like, probably.
    CONS: It’s more effective than just business cards, but issues are: not everyone has FB, sometimes it’s a weird moment to interrupt a conversation with this, and I don’t want to add work or possible work contacts to my FB friends.

    -Programming cell phone numbers directly into phones.
    RESULT: I haven’t tested this approach very often because I already have a lot of numbers in my phone and don’t want to add a thousand more for people I may never see or talk to again. On other hand, this does work out for people who are really into texting in that I can drop them an occasional text and keep some contact with them.
    CONS: This doesn’t really work for extremely busy people who may find occasional texts frivolous/time wasting, it doesn’t work so well for work contacts, and is challenging with straight men because of date-like implications.

    -Saying, “We should get lunch sometime”
    RESULT: People think I’m blowing them off since that’s something a lot of people say that they don’t mean. I do actually mean it but I know I’m working against social convention there. If I want to get lunch, I need to offer specific dates, times, and sometimes locations, which can be difficult without pulling out my Blackberry and zooming through my schedule for the next six weeks. I’ve pretty much stopped doing this.

    -Saying, “Do you want to get dinner at X time and Y place on Z day?”
    RESULT: This was my go-to method of making friends in high school, college, and law school. My process was: court someone I find interesting aggressively (compliments, laughing at their jokes/making them laugh, finding reasons to see/talk to them), inviting them out on a friend date, showing them an incredible time, and then creating a friendship that way. This usually works after I’ve seen/talked to them a few times in a casual way and have decided I would like to pursue them.
    CONS: If I’m meeting someone at a party for the first time and have only talked to them for 30 minutes, it feels a bit unnatural to jump from 10mph to 100mph with a friend date. This doesn’t work for work contacts and presents issues with straight men (even if I explain it’s not a date, only a friend thing).

    Wow. This was a long comment. Anyway, that’s my social dilemma, & the various approaches I have experimented with in order to solve it. I’m not sure if there’s something else I should be doing during the conversation to pique someone’s interest before we reach the exchange of contact info exchange stage, but new ideas are always appreciated (and vigorously tested).

  222. Jeannine Thompson Link to this comment

    Suppose I were in conversation with the example guy in your video, the guy who basically writes tooltips for WoW. Because I am not skilled at either advancing or ending conversations I would be trapped listening about his job for at least 40 min. I would never want to talk to him again for fear of having to hear about WoW time after time and he would not want to speak to me again because he was tired if talking about it. I trap myself in one topic conversations and then have trouble shifting gears or moving on.

  223. Ooh, I love this post! Unfortunately, I have a whole host of social skills issues. My dream is to become a social butterfly like my sister–she has this magnetism without realizing it. However, until recently, I thought it would remain a dream, as I was always told that you are either born social or not.

    One of my many issues is how I come across to people. A few people have told me that I come across as cold, stuck-up, rude, and even female-doggish. That’s mainly because my conversational skills are lacking. I don’t know what to say at all, so I end conversations with my one-word answers…or worse, completely inappropriate answers.

    I’ve actually used my social ineptitude as a story topic a few times. Some of the stories I have told recently:

    1. That time a guy asked me for my number and I asked him, “Why?”
    2. When I go to a social event and a conversation is not going well, I usually say, “Um…I’m sorry this conversation’s so bad. I’m awkward.” (Or along the same lines, introducing myself at a party: “Hello, I’m Simi. I’m socially awkward.” For the record, I don’t introduce myself that way anymore. It can quickly become a crutch.)
    3. When a relative or someone I have not seen in a while asks me if I remember them, and I before I know it, I blurt out, “Not really…”

    Despite all this, I’m not mean (well, I don’t mean to be!). I just don’t know what the right thing to say is. I either have the issue where I don’t say anything because I’m afraid of making a mistake, or I just say the first thing that comes to my mind…which is not exactly always the best thing.

    • I forgot to mention how people react to me (normally and when I tell these stories). Many times people react by giving me an incredulous look and ending the conversation abruptly. When I tell these stories to friends, siblings, people I am marginally acquainted with, they give me a “well, it’s to be expected” look and laugh. My friends and family have given up on expecting anything different from me…it’s kind of sad, actually.

  224. My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is lack of structure or point which is ironic, since I need to be so detailed in my professional life. Or perhaps it is due to the extreme detailed required at work that I fail miserably. By “lack of structure or point”, I mean that when I start a story, I have a gazillion details that come to mind, some important, some not, and I can get lost in the details and actually forget the main story I was trying to tell or latch on to a detail that has no relevance at all to the point I was making, and as I realize I’m up shit creek without a paddle, my canoe flips over and I choke. My “saving grace” is that until I get to the top of my escalator going nowhere, I do manage to keep people engaged and interested. However,, it makes the failure even greater. I get overwhelmed in crowds, because I’m mega sensitive and pick up on a lot of stuff. If I am interrupted by questions or comments too often, I lose track of where I am because I’m trying to manage all these stimuli.

    As I’m trying to remember a “good” example, all I can recall is the bodily symptoms (heaviness in the pit of my stomach, cold sweat, feeling faint, me telling myself to remember to breather so I do not pass out.OK, I was at a friend’s house, 2-3 people there including my friend’s daughter, there’s music playing in the background. A guy I was introduced to that evening asks me about workshops I attended because it was related to something he’s interested. I start answering right away, without even taking a breath to pause and think of key points or ask a question to refine my answer – it was a very vast and general question with many ramifications. It was going well, I was almost to the point, he asks another unrelated question, the phone rings, my friend’s daughter runs and falls and starts crying, answering the question makes me forget the initial subject of conversation, I stop speaking in mid sentence because my mind just went blank, I look the guy straight in the eye and say “I’m sorry, what were we talking about?”, and his eyes, body language and sigh, it is clear that I went from a brilliant mind to a clueless brainless idiot who cannot even remember what she was talking about. I get the “It’s a good thing she claimed she was passionate about (insert subject here), I wonder how she is in conversations about things she does not care about.” look. *shudder* That was painful Ramit. Still, sharing it will help me reduce future damage, as a few improvements I could make jumped out as I was writing the example.

  225. I’ve been making changes to the way I interact with people for a couple of years, so I’m A LOT better than I used to be, but I still get hung up on not being memorable or interesting. One of the most embarrassing and frustrating stories I have is about the time I went to see a variety show in Washington D.C. My girlfriend was performing in the show and our other friend was there to record her performance. When we got to the place there was another videographer there, so him and my friend chat all night. This guy had been all over the world with stories like how he got drunk with some guys in the Russian mafia. So they both had great stories they were throwing back and forth with each other while I just sat and listened, being totally absorbed. The end of the night comes and the two exchange info, a laugh and say goodbye to each other. I shake this guys hand and thank him for the great stories. He unwillingly shakes back and with a strange look on his face says “uh.. thanks, I guess.”

    I’ve always considered myself a great listener, but this proved that I needed much more that to get through life. Since then I’ve noticed how great speakers are exceptional storytellers and really get the people they’re speaking with to know them. This also made me realize that as much of a connection I felt with them, they didn’t feel that way with me since they had no idea who I was.

  226. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest weakness is it’s challenging for me to keep a conversation flowing. I can easily blame me having English as a second language, but I know you’ll say that it’s more than that. People actually in the past have said that they wouldn’t know that until I told them about it. So, what’s wrong? I don’t know but here’s a story about this weakness that I have:

    A few years ago, I went to this meetup in Chicago hosted by this cool guy who writes a blog about finance and psychology: let’s call that guy “Ramit.” I arrived there 30-40 minutes early out of fear that I would arrive late and miss the first few minutes of the event (Yup that’s me!). Good thing he was there and we started chatting. I did some introduction and shared some of my background. It was a nice start but I didn’t know how to keep the conversation flowing. So as a result, a nice introductory conversation eventually turned into a not so good Q & A format which sounded like this:

    Me: “I saw your ‘recommended reading’ list and I’ve read Charlie Munger’s big blue book actually.”
    R: “That’s nice blah blah blah blah…”
    (silence)

    Me: “Do you incorporate some cognitive behavioral stuff when you talk about invisible scripts?”
    R: “I blah blah blah blah blah….”
    (silence)

    etc.

    It went on like this until my “monopolizing” time (30 minutes) ran out. The other readers came, and soon enough the room was full. It turned out to be a really great event though since I met a lot of people and made new connections. Most of those connections didn’t move to the next level though because after adding those people on Facebook or LinkedIn, I rarely contacted them again (but that’s another weakness/story).

    In conclusion, I could’ve learned a lot from you in that 30 minutes/night if I had the social skills to accomplish just that. I also could’ve learned a lot from the number of people/professionals/professors I have met during informational interviews or during office hours if I had the skills. But thanks to the video above, I am now aware of this and I’m 100% willing to do whatever it takes to change this.

    Thanks!

  227. My biggest weakness if it comes to social interactions is that i’m to proud of my way of thinking things through. As a philosopher that’s what i do every day, but most people do not really care and even if they pretend to understand, they do not and get bored.
    In other words, i seem arrogant, but that was never my intention. I’d like to tell people about philosophy in a funny way everybody does understand. It could lead to ask the person questions like “Have you ever spent to much time thinking?” That’s really what i would like, talk about what i love, but in a interesting, funny way, in which i’m not putting me above another person.

    ps. excuse the grammar mistakes, my mother tongue is not English

  228. My biggest weakness is that I have not yet gotten good enough at socializing such that it comes naturally. It still requires energy and sometimes I find that I a) either avoid socializing to conserve energy and/or b) become truly exhausted after socializing that it seeps into my productivity in other things.

    To combat this, whenever I do have the energy to do so, I try to engage people in small talk. The problem, of course, is that my energy doesn’t always correlate with cocktail parties and/or professional meetings. I have tested different ways to conserve energy before such meetings to ensure I can socialize productively, but I have not yet found a specific way that works.
    I believe this might be a short-term solution but think that in the long-term, simply getting better at socializing so that some of it is a bit more natural, would be ideal.

  229. My biggest weakness is keeping an interaction going beyond the superficial stuff (name, weather,…). I often say hello and ask a couple of questions, then all of a sudden there’s an awkward silence. I don’t always follow-up or reflect on what the other person is saying. I usually think too hard and later on I’m thinking of all the smart things I could’ve said =) I also don’t smile very much these days due to feeling self-conscious about my teeth (braces). I even avoided eating in public for a while.

    At events, I’m usually waiting for others to approach me first. I’m a great listener but I don’t like sharing too much about myself. Sometimes, I’ll tell stories but they tend to be long and people get bored. I’ve been working on my body language. Improving my social skills would totally transform my life.

  230. Hi Ramit

    Thank you for posting the video and congrats on your success. I was introduced to you via a Tim Ferris posting and I appreciate the words of wisdom you pass along to those of us on your list.

    I am interested in being chosen for the media training and believe I would be a great case study for you. My career has predominantly been spent engaged in sales and marketing roles with tech and media companies. I ran a small agency and worked for a Fortune 50 company creating consumer focused programs to acquire new clients.

    Having found decent success along the way, I am fairly good with small talk, one of my biggest challenges is when somebody challenges me on what I am saying.

    For example a client of mine suggested the target for his soon to launch app was Soccer moms and Teen Girls, I completely disagreed and felt strongly if he built a marketing plan with that as the launch goal, he would fail. I gave him some reasoning on why he may want to consider a different target backed up by some research to help support my argument. He got a little heated and started to pick apart my thinking and at the end I felt he just did not listen to me. My responses became less confident and blah blah you can assume the rest. In the end, the app launched with his target focus and yes it’s a fail.

    I feel a little responsible because I was so certain he would fail that I if I was better at dealing with this type of confrontation I could have turned him to an alternative approach and the project would be more of a success. Since the people I tend to deal with are high level or C class type individuals, nobody in the immediate circle ever wants to disagree so they don’t get cut Survivor Island style.

    Having spent the last couple of years mostly focused on raising my son I am gearing up to get back into the industry and could really benefit from this training. Answering the question on what have you been doing that last couple of years will be regular one I already seem to get.

    Thank you for this opportunity and if I was to be selected, I believe I would be an investment that would pay off handsomely for you in the future.

    Regards,
    Greg

  231. Hi Ramit,

    I’m a teacher whose lack of social skills seems to bore the hell out of my students. I have a tendency to do the same with people I talk with, and many people have commented how unexcited I am about anything.

    I blame my lack of intonation and monotone voice. I pretend to act excited by raising my voice and trying to alternate my pitch but have seen very little improvement.

    It was nice chatting with you, but I have to go talk to my friends from out of town.

  232. My weakness is not knowing what to say to high-level or high-profile people. I’m concerned that I’ll be an annoyance in a social situation when so many others may be fawning all over them, but even when I’m “on the job” I’m not sure how to walk the line between professionalism and being sociable. It’s especially difficult when I only have one or two minutes with the person. In one case I was talking to someone in what I thought was a nice conversation and her “handler” stepped between us and kept her back to me. The person I was talking to didn’t ask the handler to move so eventually I just walked away.

  233. My biggest weakness is that I can make a group of people disband within a minute.

    I started a new consulting company a year and a half ago and I have been going to a lot of networking events. When I attend these events I tend to walk up to a group of people who are already engaged in conversation and politely join the conversation. Within a minute of joining the other participants have awkwardly dispersed and I am left talking to one person and I always feel as if I am the one that caused it. I am not sure if it is because I have nothing of interest to add to the conversation or if it’s because I have crashed their little party.

    My other weakness is that I tend to get stuck in a conversation and don’t know how to keep it going. When I am networking I make a lot of contacts but I don’t make a lot of connections. I need to learn a way to make myself more memorable to the people that I meet.

  234. Hands down, my biggest problem is not the technical “what do i say” or “how do i transition from Y to Z?”, it’s more related to how to speed up the learning process. How do I get myself to actually do the things that are required to excel, even though it’s hard and filled with anxiety.

    For example; I know I could rapidly increase my social skills by doing cold approaches. It’s truly something I want to do and I understand that by not doing it, my life won’t look the way I want it to in 10 years time. I’m not awkward or anything but I’m far away from where I want to be and I think that might be an issue. I guess I’m kind of stuck in the comfortable middle, my situation is apparently too good, so it’s not motivating me enough to follow through and do a lot of approaches.

  235. I struggle to maintain eye contact.

  236. I have a broad weakness and a couple conversational weaknesses that come to mind. On a broad scale, about a year and a half ago I was let go from my 9-5 and set off on making my own way – I have my own business now but it’s just me, I work out of my apartment and my brain is wrapped around it 24/7. My biggest problem here is that right now business is all I do, and I work by myself all day – so finding people I can connect with has become a serious challenge (also, when I do my brain is often so wrapped around business that I can’t bring up any conversation points of interest).

    On a conversational level – I find that I have problems with focus and memory. When I try to tell stories I often forget important little details or other critical points – maybe this is just a matter of practice. As far as focus goes, when I’m listening to someone talk I find that my brain disconnects and I’ll suddenly realize I’m not listening to them at all and I don’t know what they have said for the past 30 seconds (obviously makes it a challenge to continue the conversation). Again, maybe this is simply an issue of practice but it can be frustrating.

    Also, i’ve had people often tell me that I appear intimidating and sometimes angry – even as I feel relaxed and calm. I suspect this is a body language issue, but it is difficult to work out.

    I’ll update later with today’s challenge.

  237. This happened this past weekend chatting with a woman before a group meetup. We’re talking (about her), and get onto a thread of conversation that dead-ends after a few minutes. She seems kind of shy and wasn’t very talkative.

    This happens to me frequently — with men and women I’ve just met. We get past introductions and start talking about his/her life and interests, and the interaction gets shorter and shorter. This is after 1 or 2 deeper questions, not 6 or 7 down the line.

    Watching the video today, I have some new approaches to test: making a comment or remark on what they’ve said so far that invites them to elaborate more (as opposed to a probing question), and switching the topic up if their responses get short and the thread dies.

    What I’d really love some help with is getting some basic scripts that help the other person talk about what they want to talk about — I totally understand if a person doesn’t want to talk about their job or classes. I want to have the conversation be about what *does* excite them, whatever that may be.

  238. Hi Ramit,

    I’ve had various different issues with social skills. Before, I was too afraid to start conversations with strangers so I went to the mall and used the same icebreaker 30 times. So that fear is gone. The biggest sticking point I have now is that I’m able to think of the right thing to say. Except it always comes to mind 20 seconds too late. In other words, I’d like to learn how to get out of my head and be more aware of what the other person feels.

    Swaroop

  239. Biggest weakness – starting a conversation with someone I’ve never met. If someone approaches me I can usually find things to say even if they may not be perfect or steer the conversation in the direction I’d like. If I’m the one starting the conversation it seems like my brain likes to take a little trip through every worst case scenario that could happen. By the time I approach someone, IF THAT EVEN HAPPENS, I’m either mentally exhausted and want it to end faster than it begins or I’m terrified I will live out one of those scenarios I just imagined and end up stumbling over my words.

  240. My wife makes fun of me cos a lot of the time I tell stories that have no point. She is like ‘is that another of your stories with no point?’ I didn’t realise I was doing this till she pointed it out to me and now it is a joke between us, but also in a wider social setting, we use to lighten the mood and make people laugh. I guess this has been an issue when meeting people at events that my stories would fall flat and they would smile politely and want to move on to someone with something more interesting to say. I know I do this and I try to be aware to have a point to the story. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

  241. My biggest weakness is monopolizing a conversation. I just can’t stop talking. Every comment they make, I turn into an opportunity to talk about myself. Even when I purposefully ask THEM a question about themselves, I hear their answer and then immediately launch into what I would have answered to the question. At the end of conversations, I can assume that they learned a great deal about me, but if you were to ask me what I learned about THEM? I’d have no answers.

    Just last week I was in a conversation with former co-workers (we work in Television) and I was asking about the show they were currently working on. Barely had they told me the name of their show (just the name!) and I was already launching into the new show I was working on, what MY show was about, who was starring in MY show, who MY coworkers are now, etc. I end up yelling at myself in my head, ‘Just shut up! Stop talking!’ but then as usual, the conversation ends, and I end up feeling rude and self-absorbed that I had failed once again.

    It is something I’m aware of, but consistently fail when I attempt to fix it on my own.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for your video,
    -Chris

  242. My greatest social skills challenge is that, although I’m really good at asking people questions and making statements about what other people say, I feel weird about making statements about myself. When I do, I feel like others aren’t really interested in what I have to say. I’m not self-conscious, I just feel that when I get others to speak about themselves, I cannot talk about myself, and so I don’t. I keep the focus on them, which is great because I get liked for being so interested in others. So although I’m liked, I don’t feel like I’m memorable to others. At the end of the conversation, I don’t feel like I’ve shared myself as well as I could have…so the reaction I get is usually a comfortable silence.

    Also, I tend to be more subdued around more engaging people. I switch to listener mode (active listening is my strength) and not share a lot about myself, because then I would be interrupting the other person. So I tend to be ignored and feel invisible.

  243. I feel like I am constantly second guessing myself when it comes to starting small talk. I know how to do it but I always seem to convince myself that I’m being inauthentic when I pull a script like “So what is it that you do?”. I have a huge fear of being “unoriginal” which I know hinders my effectiveness, though I never realized till now that it also hinders my social skills, but I still feel like I have to ask something original to make an impact on the person I’m talking with.

    Even on a bus when I see someone reading a book I’ve recently read or seen the film I can’t bring myself to ask them about it because I feel like I’d be bothering them and I don’t want to be “that guy”.

    When placed into a situation where I must be social (such as an interview) I can do quite a good job, especially if I’m well prepared and have done my research but I cannot bring myself to be that person outside of those contexts. If I am invited to a party by a friend and I only know that friend it’s usually very hard for me to mingle and create relationships that last outside of that event.

    As I grow older it seems harder and harder for me to turn casual meetings into prolonged relationships. It seems like I usually run away from the opportunities and I can’t figure out why. I know I’m introverted but I do enjoy having close friends but it feels like that time between acquaintance and close friend are so terrifying to me that I just end up bailing before anyone becomes that.

  244. My main problem is self-consciousness–I can’t just talk with someone naturally, but instead, a few minutes into the conversation, I start thinking about the conversation and how great (or terrible) it is. I really like talking to people, but this extreme self-consciousness really gets in the way of engaging: it’s hard to pay attention to someone when you’re preoccupied with how well (or poorly) you’re paying attention to them!

    Thanks Ramit!

  245. I tell lots of little stories based on my past experiences and my slightly out-there family and friends. This is one I told to a coworker the other day while learning new software:
    Coworker: Don’t worry, as long as you don’t hit save, you can play around with this file as much as you want.
    Me: Haha, will do. I’m just always hesitant with new programs because when we got our first computer my sister managed to delete half of Windows 95 in about 3 keystrokes. We’re still not sure how she did it to this day, and thankfully she’s never replicated it.
    I love that story in any tech setting. It always gets a laugh and lightens up the mood.

    I also take a lot from my training in the Coast Guard in California. We were a crazy group. Here’s one of the ones I tell pretty often, usually around a group I’m pretty comfortable with:
    “My classmates and I were all doing a beach cleanup that our class leader arranged. It wasn’t really anything special. We were just wandering the dunes picking up bottles and cigarette butts. Except for one guy who somehow managed to find 3 pairs of women’s underwear. He returned to base declaring himself the women’s underwear finding champion. While sober.”

    This is one I pull out when we’re all talking about silly or stupid things we’ve done or seen others do. It’s so random and unexpected, so odd. And the way my classmate was so proud of himself made all of us laugh. And usually makes other people laugh.

    I try to keep these stories short and sweet and focus them on things that have happened around me to help reduce a bad habit I have of focusing my side of the conversation too much on myself. Funny story about my sister or a classmate makes it a bit more easy for others to relate to – seeing this ridiculous thing happen.

  246. My biggest social issue is that sometimes I get really into telling a story and don’t catch those social cues that say “yeah, I’m kinda done listening.” Like the story you told about the guy who monopolized your time, I find that I want to say “wait, here’s one more thing that’s really important” when the other person is done. I’ getting better at catching it but could use more. My husband would also tell you that my story toolkit gets a bit monotonous. (I feel as long as he’s the only one who’s heard it 10x I’m good.)

    As a fundraiser, it is my JOB to engage new people in the work of my organization. I have no problems speaking to 400 people but since switching to major gifts I sometimes feel tongue-tied around people who are on our board or are CEOs of major companies in the area. I feel like I’m too young or too inexperienced to connect with them. Once I find something we have in common I’m fine, but that sense of being “less” than them can be a heck of a hurdle.

  247. My problem is starting the conversation. I end up being the guy checking his phone to look “busy”. Once the conversation starts, I tend to do well at keeping it going (by having a genuine interest in the person I am speaking with.)

    I have an interest in photography, and occasionally my semi-color blindness comes up (color is important in this field.) Usually this will lead to me talking about my first car. I drove it for three years. Wonderful, red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. One day it died, and I had to sell it. There were some issues thata rose when I filled in the sale as a “red” Oldsmobile. Apparently this car was brown. Go figure.

    That story, when told in person, usually goes well.

  248. I’m pretty sure I have talked myself out of potential jobs because of my lack of social grace (I’m probably talking myself out of this trip to New York). One of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to social skills is that I may tend to make people uncomfortable. I have been told that I am very blunt and a little too frank and honest for my own good. I do not like to beat around the bush; I’m a straight to the point kind of person. This frankness coupled with my lack of smiling affects me in a negative way. Sometimes in conversations I might tend to go a little to “deep” and it becomes like a lecture instead of a conversation at times.

  249. Hi Ramit,

    I’ve made a lot of progress over the years with my social skills, it certainly is scary testing new materials and methods but once you realise that what you’re already doing is so wrong and it can’t get much worse, that makes it easier to let go of the old broken methods!

    My biggest weakness at the moment is story telling. I’ve realised that in group situations, story telling is a MUST. One on one, it’s a lot easier to get by with inquisitiveness and active listening (what you described in the video – feeding back what the person said to you to show that you are listening), but in a group, the only way to communicate is through story telling and engaging not one or two people but commanding EVERYONE in the group.

    I just can’t get it right, I want to learn more about how to tell a story – I often find my stories are either too short (fact sharing) or too long (people get bored and interrupt me). I very often get interrupted because people can’t tell the difference between a pause for reaction and the end of the story!! I would love to have a formula for constructing a story – how to craft the beginning, middle and end and also the subtleties of body language, tone of voice to deliver it in a way that was impact and is engaging!

    I will keep experimenting but the media training would be so helpful for me to learn how to perfect my storytelling.

    Thanks for reading my answer,
    Sabrina :)

    PS: Does the winner who gets flown to NYC get to meet you too? ;)

  250. Ramit,

    There are a lot of challenges I confront in the realm of socializing, but the one that comes to mind is what I dealt with just yesterday. I was talking to someone about a house on the market, and he kept interrupting me midway to describe in length the potential issues with really minute, irrelevant things. I got to the point where, by the time I realized he was talking about something that had completely lost my interest, and for far too long, I suddenly was left without the energy to even redirect the conversation to what I originally was interested in discussing anyway–leaving me susceptible to the continued barrage of words from the said conversation-monopolizer.

    On a separate issue, one challenge I deal with most often is this underlying, icky feeling I get that I’m being read by others as a phony. I refuse to engage in small talk, and when I do, I do so begrudgingly, not hiding at all my disinterest in the color of the trees this morning as I drove to work. Like you alluded to in your video, unless we’re not discussing the meaning of our lives within five minutes of meeting each other, there is zero point in conversation. I relay the extreme of this particular social challenge, but it is one that continues to afflict me.

  251. Hey! Great post! I wish you had posted this on Friday because I would have given it a good use during the weekend. Now, I’ll just have to wait. I think my biggest problem with my social skills is that I don’t follow up, I mean, I can meet someone new and have a nice conversation, share some good laughs, and end that conversation on good terms. But whenever I meet that person again, I just don’t know what to do, I become totally awkward, should I say hi?, should I wait for him/her to say hi?, should I talk to him/her?
    For instance, when I was in a field trip during high school, I started talking to my friend’s boyfriend friend who I have never met, we got along pretty well. We were in the middle of nowhere and a huge storm started and our bus was miles away. We needed to do some climbing and the road was really difficult. We walked for hours under heavy rain and this guy literally held my hand, dragging me with him so I wouldn’t stay behind. We arrived to the bus safely and said goodbye as we were in different buses. Next Monday, when I saw him at school I couldn’t even say hi to him. I was standing there awkwardly doubting if I should say hi … Do I really have to tell you I never spoke to him again?… He saved my life (well, you know what I mean) and I never spoke to him again. And I have a lot of examples like that to share…
    So, as you may notice I really need to improve my social skills

  252. Hi Ramit,

    Yes, men do talk too much about themselves. I went on a date recently and the guy WOULD NOT SHUT UP! Out of the three hours we sat together over a drink (yes one drink that took three hours of my life away), I was able to get in maybe five sentences. At one point he even made the vague statement of “oh, excuse me, I’ve been talking to much about myself. Tell me about you.” And of course right when I say where I’m from, he begins ranting again about how much he loves that city and he’s visited blah blah amount of times and he loves going to blah blah restaurant. REALLY!! Ramit, I started to get anxiety. No joke. I wanted to hit my head on the wall. I couldn’t believe I was wasting my time with this guy. But the problem was, I could not, for the life of me, find the words to communicate how uncomfortable I was feeling and how much I wanted to run home and crack open that Haggen Dazs ice cream. Even though this guy was giving me the urge to fork my ears out, I sat and listened. For three hours. After a while, I completely zoned him out and became immersed in my own evacuation scheme to leave the bar. I was thinking: “Should I fake a headache, text a friend to call me with an emergency…..what do I do!?”

    It wasn’t until he finished his drink finally and signaled the bartender for another that I almost jumped out of my seat and half shrieked with joy/urgency, waved my hands in front of the bartender to stop him from pouring another drink so that I could awkwardly state that I was tired and needed to get up early in the morning. My date was shocked (along with the people sitting next us of whom I almost spilled their drinks), and asked, “Are you leaving because I talk too much?”

    What do you think chatter box?!

    I couldn’t say the truth. I couldn’t bring myself to say yes, it’s because you talk too much and I feel like this date is a waste of my time. So I lied. I said I was tired and needed to get in eight hours of sleep. He saw right through me. I’m a horrible liar. And with that, I turned around and left.

    I left that date feeling a mixture of relief (to be “free at last”), feeling bad because I lied, and finally angry with myself for not speaking up earlier and either ending the date sooner or taking control of the conversation. I was speechless. I didn’t know what words to use to drive the conversation. I was afraid that if I interrupted him, I would come off as a bitch. Which in a sense in the end, by lying, bitch is the image I left behind. An image I tried to avoid by letting him ramble on and on.

  253. My main social weakness is that I’m afraid of going and meeting new people, because I feel that I have to be extremely interesting, engaging, and original, every single time — it’s this crippling invisible script of everything-or-nothing, which prevents me from meeting lots of people.

  254. My biggest social weakness is rambling on/magically making stories uninteresting. I’m not sure if it has to do with too much detail or not enough expression on my part (or both!)

    Sometimes while telling a story, I notice others’ attentions wandering. It turns “this ridiculous thing that happened” into a “well, you had to be there” kind of story. Ugh! I’ve tried two remedies: (1) altering the volume of my voice to catch the person’s attention again, and (2) wrapping up the story very quickly once I notice this happening, and then following up with a question about the other person to keep the conversation flowing.

    (1) Works for about half of a second. The other person will zone in for a moment due to the volume change, but since neither the story nor my delivery has changed, they lose interest again.

    (2) Sort of saves the conversation, but doesn’t save my story. On the bright side, people are usually happy to talk about themselves.

    Another thing I’d really like to work on is conversational timing. I have difficulty finding the balance between asking the other person about him- or herself and interjecting with my own stories and experiences, especially in group conversations. I tend to become quiet and observant, which comes off as aloof. I’m not trying to be aloof, I just feel awkward sometimes! Then when someone asks me a question, it jerks me out of observing mode and I don’t know what to say, so I’ll either give a short answer or ramble as described above. I’ve tried interjecting more often lately and it seems to be going OK (especially when I interrupt someone with a follow-up question as opposed to interrupting them to talk about something related that I experienced). I still have the floating fear in the back of my mind that whoever I’m talking to will eventually become annoyed with me for not letting them finish every thought.

  255. My biggest weakness by far has to be inconsistency. I get into these grooves sort of like an actor playing a part. I take myself out of the situation and sort of let myself act and react without any hesitation. And most of the time it works fairly well, I’m engaged, able to mingle, and can confidently say that I impress a good amount of people that I have the pleasure of interacting with at that point. But then there’s the other side of me, which I’m sad to say takes over at the most inconvenient times. I’m the wallflower, sitting in the corner, offering to help or do work at parties or functions just so that I can avoid talking to people. I don’t know why I do this, because truth is, I love talking to people, I love listening and hearing about their experiences and relating them to mine. I love helping people get through problems or brainstorm ideas. It’s a trait that I’m really proud of, that I can genuinely say that I’m a proactive listener. But for some reason I just can’t seem to master my ability. I’m the one who seems amazing when you first meet, but who will stay silent and contribute to that awkward silence the next time I see you. It’s always a hit or miss. But let’s say things go well, and I’m really engaged and having fun, this is when my ego steps in, I get OVERLY confident and not only do I start to ramble but I start to become sort of judgmental and want to impress everyone in a 5 miles radius of my supposed intelligence, whether I know the facts I spit out to be correct or not, I can’t seem to keep a lid on the words I say at this point, and for some who don’t know better they can be really impressed, but every once in awhile I meet the person who calls me out, and after that I go back to my introverted self.

    My one go to hook that I always use though when I can remember is pretty much the biggest conversation starter I’ve ever heard used (and I’ve heard a LOT), I have a condition called situs inversus totalis, so basically all my internal organs are reversed, this doesn’t effect me by much but it constantly leaves me with a slight cough and need to blow my nose frequently with a handkerchief. So if things get awkward or silent and I can remember, I just give a slight cough, when most people ask if I’m ok, that’s when I hit them with that fact about myself, and the conversation gets interesting.

    To put it simply, I’m intelligent in many ways, and I have a great personality combined with a very interesting fact, I know this, but I simply don’t have the consistent confidence nor the know how to really let myself shine to my full potential. And that’s why I read blogs like yours, constantly learning gives me confidence, but it’s the practice and execution I always have problems with!

  256. “* We don’t talk to that girl (guy) at the bar, then kick ourselves later. Add this up over years and we end up getting our “second pick” of partners — not the ones we WANT, but the ones who are convenient or left over.”
    – I am currently single and 40 yo. While that statement hit hard, as it is true, it is also an incentive to hone those social skills. I’m sure there are a few great, but socially “inept” (harsh, I know) men in my area. I had the experience last month of meeting this random guy and going on a few dates with him, and it only happened because I had actually improved my own social skills. I was able to seize the opportunity because I recognized it (I would miss subtles clues), and I had worked on my self-confidence and felt so awesome about myself that I thought “why not?” instead of “what if I end up looking like an idiot?” It did not work out with the random guy, but I was able to figure that out in 4 days instead of 4 months. I have improved my social skills greatly, but I noticed that it is not always natural or “on”. When I am in the zone, it’s flawless, but if I’m stressed, tired or having a bad day, I notice my interactions are less fluid. Still better than before I took the DJE sessions and did exercises and things from other sources. So having said that, I would find it extremely useful if you shared tips or pertinent resources or material showing on maintaining the social skills we have added to our toolkit while working on adding others. That is something I would be more than willing to pay for once this 30-day program or experiment is done. Well, only if it comes from you that is.

  257. I have a very analytical mind. My first instinct when I meet someone is to observe them until I get a good ‘feel’ for the person so that I have an idea of how to respond to and interact with them. This typically leads to very short conversations because the other person looses interest in talking to me before I feel comfortable engaging in the exchange.

    Additionally, I have trouble thinking of topics for small talk when I meet new people professionally. I am a young, single female working in a male dominated field where I find conversations typically revolve around sports and family life, and I have trouble relating to both subjects. If I know ahead of time I am going to be meeting someone new that I want to make an effort to talk with, I sometimes make a list of things to ask them about. I have trouble transitioning from one topic to another though, and it ends up sounding premeditated and forced.

  258. My biggest challenge is starting the conversation in a way I’m comfortable with. Growing up, I was very reserved, all the way through high school and beyond. It did get better in high school, as then I learned how to loosen up, forget what people might think of me, and embrace my joke-telling side. It’s not appropriate in all situations, true, but it does help me grow confident as I talk.

    I’ve come to notice that once I’ve got momentum, it’s easy to handle a conversation, it’s just that initial jump that’s the hardest. In my mind, I know there’s probably no reason to fear what people will think of me. Meanwhile, there’s a feeling in my chest and it’s freaking the hell out. Scripts I’ve learned and developed have helped immensely, but there’s always a sense of awkwardness. But I will practice and iron it out.

    This same fear also translates into my Earn1K work, and pitching leads with confidence would definitely help! So forward I go.

  259. Hi Ramit,

    Thanks very much for the video – I really enjoyed it. The deconstruction of your TV interview was amazingly insightful.

    My biggest challenge is keeping a conversation going when I feel I’ve got nothing in common with who I’m talking to. I’m not a quick thinker, and I struggle to guide a conversation when I know nothing about the other person. It ends up with me asking (what I know are) the same questions everyone else asks, and the other person looking at me like I’m an idiot.

    Example – I like to talk to people outside my career, but I really enjoy talking to someone who’s further “up the ladder” than myself. So I bring it on myself, but I really do enjoy it and get a lot of value. For instance, I make a point of talking to both the CEO and the Chairman of the Board at our annual firm event. To be honest, this *is* partly a kiss-ass attempt, but mainly it’s to try and get my head into the space that these people play in. I struggle with calibration, so I figure the more time I spend talking to, say, the CEO, the more prepared I’ll be to talk to someone in “business speak” using their vocabulary when I need to and the better I’ll understand their challenges. Technical IT people are a dime-a-dozen, but an IT person who can speak in business/C-level language is actually useful.

    But therein lies the problem for me. Because I know nothing of their world and they know nothing of mine, the conversation quickly dies. I don’t mind starting the conversation, but it pretty soon peters out, and neither party has any fun or gets anything meaningful from the encounter.

    I’m sure it doesn’t help that, at 6″7, I’m towering over them, forcing them to crane their neck up to the clouds to maintain eye contact. But I’m equally sure that’s not my biggest problem.

    On one hand I should probably stick to my “circle of influence” and leave the big-wigs be, but that sort of attitude doesn’t get you anywhere.

    Again, thanks for the video – I look forward to more on this subject!

    Cheers,
    Matto

  260. I’m pretty good at small talk because I am genuinely interested in listening to what people have to say, but my storytelling skills suck. I am a fairly competent writer (I’m a PhD student going on the job market soon), but when it comes to telling stories in person, the pacing is off, or I forget the punchline. When I was back home visiting some friends over the holidays, many of them asked me “how’s school going?” I just said, “pretty good.” Even though I had some pretty interesting stories to tell, I couldn’t really think of any on the spot. And, when I do try to tell what I think is an entertaining story, it just doesn’t go over very well. People’s eyes wander. People yawn. My own father has told me “you’re not very good at telling stories.” So, yeah. It’s something I need to work on.

  261. Thanks for sharing this valuable video. I’m going to listen to it until the strategies you’ve shared become second nature.

    And yes, I’m in dire need of help. Mind you, I’ve got the *listening* part handled. I can make the kookiest kook believe I’m fascinated by his unintentionally-hilarious theology stylings. I can convincingly feign rapt attention while my mother-in-law prattles on about what Bobbie Ray said about Billie Sue talking about how Tammy Jo said she was insulted by what Joe Bob said to Sally Ann . . .

    Listening. It’s my superpower. Instead of keeling over dead from boredom, I can seem so interested that peoples’ eyes twinkle with joy because someone is finally giving them the chance to regurgitate the bezoar of compacted drivel they’ve been incubating for sooooo long.

    But . . . it must be true what they say about God (or Oz, or FSM, or whoever you imagine to be pulling the cosmological strings) takes away with one hand as He/She/It gives with the other. As well as I can listen, I’m AWFUL at being interesting enough to be listened to.

    I can spend three hours letting someone else “empty out his or her cup”. Then–when they finally wear out and ask me a question–especially the predictable “So what do you do?” question–I see the eyes scanning for an escape in less than thirty seconds. More than twice I’ve seen someone I’ve generously listened to glance at their watch even before I finish my first sentence.

    With all due respect to Dale Carnegie, it’s not enough to be interestED. You’ve got to be interestING or people instantly tune you out.

    Ramit, is there any chance that crackerjack team that amped up your social capital could help put a little polish on my t*rd of a personality?

  262. Hey Ramit,

    Once more, very thought provoking material!

    I do not consider my self a weirdo type, however it appears that I am only able to thrive when I am drunk (go figure) or when I do not really care about the situation. This makes it really weird:

    If in the room there is someone I want to meet for whichever reason, I will be completely blocked (which sucks btw).

    On top of that it appears that I have some kind of limitation on the closing part: I am never memorable enough, nor do I get a ton of follow up.

    This is the opposite side of my former roomate, which was able to relate to anyone in just 10 seconds, being always the center of the party. I was just amazed by how anyone would come up to her and she would engage in some conversation where even strangers fell confidence enough to even share very intimate details.

    I wish I was her… so I started to observe her, which brought me from zero to where I am now, and it was really simple:
    - she smiled a lot;
    - she had an amazing body language;
    - she made everyone feel good with a positive attitude;
    and finally
    - she showed genuine interest

    But I feel this is not enough: I need more scripts, more techniques, I need to improve my body language, I need to be better at starting conversations and I need to be more memorable!

    Please Ramit, share more material! :)

  263. My main social weakness is to have people engaged in the conversation. It is trying to get to the level that Bill Clinton has of having people being engaged and making them feel like your the one being talked to in the midst of a 1000 person audience. Doing this can have an unsurmountable benefit as it is the core of any conversation.

  264. My biggest hurdle with social skills is my storytelling. You know that “cool story bro” meme? Yea, happens to me almost every time. I like to think I’m decent in starting conversations and making small talk, but I can never get past that. I want something more rich when I talk to people at a bar, an event, or even in the halls. I don’t want to just ask them where they’re from or what brought them here. So I’ll try to tell a story about this hilarious thing that happened to me, or something I saw, or this stupid thing my friend did.

    During my spiel, I see the other people not as engaged at all. Their eyes are a little glazed, they’re not responding to my subtle hints, so it takes less subtle hints to get them to say something like, “Oh yeah, I know what you mean,” just to make me feel better. And then my story ends, and there are no laughs or chuckles, no real connection made. Worst case scenario: there’s an awkward pause, and then I try to salvage the conversation with more small talk. Best case scenario: someone else takes the initiative and changes the subject, not acknowledging my story at all or very little.

    I’m glad you brought to my attention that storytelling is a testable and tweakable skill. Never thought of it that way. I thought if you a story sucks, chunk the entire thing, and try another one. Now, I’ll be more aware during my stories, making mental notes (and eventually physical notes) about what parts of my stories get a good reaction and what parts get a negative reaction or worse, no reaction at all. This is exciting because I didn’t think there was a method of actually improving this skill.

    Cheers,

    Van

  265. As a musician, your point about comedians and testing stories is very relevant to what I do. This is an area I definitely need to work on — my biggest weakness is not just being confident, but EFFECTIVE in my storytelling.

    This is not an issue in everyday socializing as much as it is when playing shows and networking with others in the industry. I’ve been to several music conferences over the past year, and at each one, there were a good number of well-known names in the industry who attended. At the most recent conference this past October, I went to an after-party with many of the panelists and other attendees. I would have loved to approach them and talk them, but instead, I did NOTHING. Not because I had nothing to say, but because I was doubting my ability to relay my message smoothly and effectively. Needless to say, it was pretty frustrating, considering this isn’t normally an issue in social situations!

    In a live setting, the situation is a little different. I have no issue interacting with and engaging my audience, BUT because I have rarely have made a conscious effort to conduct tests, I often don’t feel confident enough to put on rehearsed performance. This often results in a lot of improvising, usually involving lots of weird humor and vulgarity. My audiences usually respond favorably to this, but the downside is that improvising can often lead to drawing blanks and having to resort to vulgar humor (which is okay in moderate amounts, but definitely not the only tactic I want to utilize).

    Last August, I played a show where I was all over the place in terms of dialogue. Lots of weird/vulgar jokes as mentioned above, and plenty of going off-topic about things that were pretty funny, but not even REMOTELY related to the subject matter of my songs. Fortunately, that particular crowd loved it, but I can’t imagine repeating that performance in my hometown! I made a few sales and a few new fans, but I could have maximized both of these things had my performance been concise and well-orchestrated.

    Ideally, I would like my dialogues in-between songs to be less than a minute, and effectively engage the audience while also being articulate and SUCCINCT. I’m going to incorporate condensing my stories into my rehearsals and keep a journal of how each dialogue works with every crowd I play to.

    Great post, man!

  266. My biggest social weakness is that I avoid being vulnerable or telling stories of me doing normal, human, but embarrassing things. I can be self-deprecating, but I really hesitate to share personal stuff. (I know it’s a problem because, consistently, for YEARS now, I’ve been described by coworkers as “incredibly smart.” From my research, in my industry, this is code for “she is so competent that I’m afraid she’ll take all our jobs.” Clearly I need to work on sending a message that I’m a friendly, regular person and no one to be afraid of.)

    My current fix for this — still being tested — is that I am starting conversations with coworkers in which I ask for their advice on hypothetical situations, which then I reveal are from my actual life/career/hobby. It is working okay, but I know I could get a lot better at it. (FWIW, I come by this problem very honestly — I’ve just finished a four year phase of my career in which I was paid very well to not have problems, personal or otherwise, and to fix any problems I discovered. So this is a habit I’ve learned, and now need to shed.)

    My story — which I shared with a coworker — is about an older friend of mine who sometimes calls me when he gets stuck using Word and needs formatting help. I don’t have any living grandparents, so even though this person isn’t old enough to be my grandfather, I kind of love getting these random calls about how to make a PDF. My coworker laughed and understood why I am powerless to resist my friend’s periodic calls for help, but that was more or less the end of the conversation.

  267. I decided to go to the mall today (during the day) to find someone to test one of my stories on. While I was there, I saw my high school-aged cousin (clearly and admittedly skipping school). During my conversation with him and his friend one of my stories came up. It was interesting to see the variety of different punchlines and jokes within one story. I was telling him about a time that my friends and I (about 8 guys) went snowboarding in New York. The night before we went, we discovered an incredible sale on bright pink and highly bedazzled women’s maternity shirts at Wal-Mart. We all bought one and could wear them over our coats so we could find each other and look as ridiculous as possible while snowboarding.

    Within that story I recognized that both guys laughed when I told them about how we wore the shirts and looked ridiculous. Neither person thought it was funny when I described the corny sayings on the shirts. At the end, they both laughed about how we never lost anybody since we were all very easy to see, even from a far distance when our friend Steve was sliding down the mountain on his stomach. Only one guy kind of laughed about the fact that we all ended up with sparkles all over our face, clothes, and hair afterwards from the bedazzled shirts shedding their sparkles. I am certainly excited about seeing what other observations I can make as I continue testing stories!!!

  268. My social weakness is pure fear – I literally lock up when I try to talk to new people. It feels like my tongue has grown to be somehow even bigger than my mouth and all I can do is salivate. It’s very frustrating. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I finally force myself to open my mouth, my mind goes completely blank. I don’t want to bother anyone and even if I know that everyone at the event is there to meet other people, I’ve never figured out why they’d want to meet me rather than anyone else there. Does that count as two? Limited self image and fear of conversational engagement?

    To solve this problem (these problems?), I’ve tried anti-anxiety meds (they work like a charm…), having well rehearsed stories (that also works like a charm for continuing a conversation, but not starting one) and staring at my whiskey hoping someone will talk to me (oddly, they have in the past.) “Hi, my name is Jonathan, how do you know [the host]” works, depending on the location. It’s not the step of talking that’s an issue, though, it’s the step before that of opening my mouth at all.

  269. My biggest social problem is a pretty common one, but it really is a problem for me!

    I talk too long, and I don’t know when to stop. I watch listener’s faces glaze over, and see them tuning out, so I feel like “ah, I just have to re-engage them!” which leads to more talking! Of course, the best I could do is to just SHUT UP but I don’t know how to stop after I’ve gone so far, and save face. I’ve tried being aware of how much I’ve said, and to think carefully about what to say so that I don’t fall into this pattern again but that requires so much of my concentration I stop being able to follow the conversation with them anymore. I really want to be able to hear what other people have to say, but I can’t overcome my own babble to learn anything from them.

    Not too original, huh? Well it still stumps me despite a lot of effort. I’m stuck and want to figure out a solution that works.

  270. My biggest problem is keeping the conversation going, whether I’m doing the questioning or answering.
    When I do the questioning, after I get a response, I can never think of a statement or comment to make that can keep the flow of the conversation going in one particular direction. I end up asking questions all over the place, without ever hitting on a particular topic of interest, and then leaving the conversation as quickly as possible.
    When I do the answering, I usually answer using as few words as possible. This tends to leave the person I’m talking to with no particularly good way to continue.

  271. I’m socially inconsistent.

    Sometimes at networking events, I feel like everything is falling into place, that I’m knocking it out of the park, and that I’m leaving people feeling engaged, valued, and enriched.

    Other times (more often than not), I don’t look people in the eye when talking to them, I stumble along and make awkward transitions, and never get to reach the people I had attended the event to connect with!

    The fix for this (in my mind) is using the daily interactions I have with people I see constantly. Family, daily coworkers, friends…Treating the conversation with them like I would with someone I’ve just met, and vice versa. I haven’t tested this out fully, but feel like “practicing” on people that I’m comfortable with helps me to be comfortable with strangers, and then having those strangers become connections and then friends.

  272. As a former waiter for almost six years, I have talked to thousands upon thousands of people. I have also spoken in front of audiences ranging from a few to a few thousand. But, for some reason, I blank when I interact with people in social settings, resulting in a plethora of awkward silences. I think it’s because my day-to-day experience has gotten pretty routine and doesn’t involve a lot of adventure or really anything outside of work, exercise, and relaxing at home. As a result, I don’t feel like I have a good breadth of topics to discuss. I could talk all day about physics, but nobody wants to listen to that, so I’m SOL there. As soon as I mention that I am a physicist, people want to talk about the show the Big Bang Theory, which annoys me (I’ve encountered this about a billion times now), so that never ends well.

    When stuck, I have tried making humorous observations about the person I’m talking to and/or about other people in the room. This works nicely when my funny switch is on, but sadly that’s about a 50/50 chance.

  273. I read your post this morning and tried out a story on my patient this afternoon. They had previously asked me if the side effects of their acupuncture treatment were normal. I told a story about when I was an intern I didn’t realize the intense response my patient would experience from treatment and how I thought I had done something really wrong to them and completely screwed them up. This story made my patient laugh and put her at ease. Success!

    My biggest weakness when it comes to social skills is the giggles. Ugh. It’s so annoying to myself. I’ve been told by many that it’s a cute habit, they love how happy I am, and have been given the nickname of Bubbles. Barf me. All the while my insides are screaming, “Respect me people! Damn it, I’m a doctor!” I’ve tried not laughing, but I’m so hard wired to laugh that trying not to laugh makes me laugh more. Annoying. Then I tried smiling less to see if that would help me laugh less, everyone kept asking me what was wrong and I felt like Debbie Downer. Apparently my other biggest weakness, as I just learned from your video, is asking too many questions. I’ve definitely been that woman who has walked away from a date going, “That moron didn’t ask me anything about me!” But now I realize there’s a good chance I may of over-questioned the victim.

  274. So I’m at work today and the mechanic is in talking to my boss and my boss asks him if he can fix this compressor and the mechanic goes ‘I can fix anything’ so I butt in and am like ‘can you fix a broken heart’… they both kind of stared at me for 5 seconds then went back to their conversation.

  275. Stephen Frianeza Link to this comment

    My biggest social weakness is that I tend to come off as either bored, unhappy, or just too quiet/reserved when I first meet people. One summer I got an internship at Boeing, only to be let go around two thirds of the way through because some of the higher ups thought I wasn’t interested. I actually was genuinely interested but I was unable to get that to come across to them.

    Now I am scared that this will cost me future jobs, internships, networking opportunities or even just friendships. I found out after about a month at college that in the first couple of weeks my new friends thought I didn’t like them. They said that I just gave off a vibe that I didn’t want to be around them, even though I was actually having fun. Eventually I got it across that, in their words, I like them, but of course I would much rather have people know that I am interested right away.

    A related secondary weakness is keeping conversations going past the introduction. This is hard for me even with people who I have been friends for several years sometimes. I can introduce myself to people most of the time, but maybe my introductions are not interesting enough because many times the conversation quickly dies.

    I told a story to a longtime friend of the time I tried to ride my friend’s longboard and shot it out onto the street. Thankfully it was a red light and it didn’t get run over. My friend(a girl) just chuckled and said, “Oh my gosh.” I wasn’t expecting a laugh out loud reaction but it wasn’t much of a reaction anyway.

    I haven’t taken much action on your posts since discovering you about a year and a half, but I have already done more in 2013 than I have since I started reading your stuff.

    Thanks for your content Ramit, especially I don’t have enough money to purchase your products. I look forward to getting new content from you every day.

  276. One of my weakness is to think and re-think about having a conversation with a potential customer and never go and actually talk to him/her because of the fear of the lack of interest in the other person or maybe he/she will discriminate me for my clothing or my aspect. What I try to do is having that conversation with other minor potential customers and the result is good.

    Another one is when someone who does not know what my start-up does I hesitate or think to much the response (I want to sound to technical but not so generic, but I sound that I have no clue what I’m doing). What I do is to be generic, but people get a wrong idea of what am I doing for a living.

  277. My problem is that when I actually start talking I just spew out everything that comes into my mind without properly organizing it first and basically just makes no sense. I often get people that look confused or even just stare at me blankly or look at me like I’m stupid. I try to rephrase things and just make things worse so then I just lose them in the process. I’m trying to think of a specific example but I don’t really have one. However, I know that this happens a lot when I’m trying to explain something more complex to the individual. I know what I’m talking about, I know the subject, I just can’t seem to get it out of my mind and into speech without stumbling or mishmashing multiple concepts together.
    Interestingly enough I’ve rarely gone up to someone and started chatting…people always come up to me to chat (I smile a lot…I think that helps). Which is great but I can’t seem to follow through if they ask more intensive questions. Simple chit chat seems fine so far (so I think anyways).
    I think it’s the anxiety that just builds and takes over so that I stop making sense…I’m sure if I just breathed and slowed down it would help a lot but it definitely is easier said than done.

  278. My weakness is not being “present” during conversations and consequently, having rapid thoughts run through my head thinking about what to say next, how to answer and worse, doing the whole scan-the-room cuz I’m already thinking ahead and wanting to meet the next person!
    So I’m working on being more mindful of “less is more” (and not worried about accumulating volume of contacts), forcing myself to actively listen to the other person by learning about what they do, what projects they have, what needs they may have. That way I’m more present and I can make a meaningful connection with that person. Less is more!

  279. Im glad Im pretty socially skilled. I moved every few years through childhood and you would be surprised you really need to learn to adapt to new situations.
    I developed this thing using a lot of facial expressions. But now that Im getting older, those facial expressions are not as attractive haha so Ive now adapted to express my self with my tone and calmed down the facial movements. Can you say botox!

  280. Doron Greenspan Link to this comment

    My biggest challenge socially is finding common ground to relate with other people on a deep level – to really connect. I attribute this to the years I spent in all male religious schools. All of my social scripts are based around my formative experiences and I’ve found it difficult to break out of my shell in conversation to find the vulnerabilities and common experiences that I think will help me relate to others. By nature I’m an extrovert and in the right social settings I can work the room and tap into some deep inner confidence, but the ‘right’ social settings are rare. I want to be able to connect with others in any setting at any time and develop the confidence to always be on my A game.

  281. It may seem like boasting but i actually often find myself on the opposite end of the problem: i.e. so many people want to talk to me ( i love travelling and i am always curious about anything and anyone and am happy and lucky to have friends and stories from all over!:) and expect me to be this famous funny storytelling Maja i have always been (e.g. with my family: maja the entertainer) but some days,the older i get, the more i want to just be quiet and observe and listen…. I do the entertaining bit out of – wait for it – shyness! yes shyness: it is version of shyness when you talk and talk and entertain and throw thousand jokes ,, nearly everyone is happy but i am sometimes exhausted so my challenge is how to overcome this and be confident to ask questions, to have others speak and trust in me… Also, a big big challenge (Ramit i would love you if you helped in this:) is … my voice! i am a singer and my voice is my everything… For over 13 years doctors kept saying my throat was too weak & i “would never sing” but one day i decided to fight for my dreams and am now making a living by singing… However, i still need to care about my voice… Sadly it affected my social life A LOT!.. because all social engagements are in noisy places!! pubs, parties, clubs… i can talk for 10 minutes and then? then people ask me questions, want to get to know me and all i can do is nod, or risk having a sore throat for 1-2 days..At one point i started typing responses on my iphone… First people were shocked then intrigued and some guys actually found it even more attractive lol (seriously!) My speech therapist told me to stop stressing about it so much, but i wish i could develop a technique of communicating to my interlocutors that i cant talk without annoying them/ losing their attention; or talking v quietly yet still being heard and having the listener’s attention/.. Ramit please help! and in general – pls could you develop more materials for artists (singers, actors, etc)) not only for business? many thanks! for all so far – maja (www.fb.com/petalmusic)

  282. Thanks for the tips Ramit

    As far as social skills – I literally have a brain freeze when ever I interact with anyone. I can know a person for 10 years and get into conversation and forget their name and I spend the next 10 minutes trying to remember their name and don’t listen to what they are saying.

    So my lack of social skills are the result of a mind that won’t work or is off being self-absorbed rather than listening

  283. Occasionally I will find myself in a situation where I should be leading by example, but it becomes a struggle.

    I work in the luxury goods industry and sometimes interact with high profile designers, executives, and celebrities. Before a meeting, I remind myself that everyone in the room has something in common: we are all just normal people. That realization really helps keep nerves at bay.

    However I’ve been in a few instances where I unexpectedly run into a celebrity I have met in a work setting while I am out in a social setting with someone else, and the person I am with (friend, or – worse – my mom) gets starstruck and starts acting like a borderline crazed fan. In my head, I am thinking “I need to do damage control and find a way to gracefully exit this situation” but in reality, I get very deer in headlights and watch in disbelief as, for example, my late 50s mom turns into her teenager self.

    I know I am not responsible for the maturity or actions of others, but I would love to learn how to successfully lay down the social cues of “Chill out! It’s just a person!”

  284. My biggest weakness is approaching groups. Usually, I’ll want to approach a group of girls, but can’t think of how. I like hanging out with the group of people that I am with, but would also like to work on being more social.

    I have tried to watch others to see how they do it ad I usually find that they don’t. And if they do, they might be drunk. Neither option seems too appealing. Any recommendations?

  285. Ramit,

    I’m working on my story. But while I think most of your advice above is on point, I think your answer to the first objection really doesn’t address the issue: “Ugh, I don’t want to be one of those douchebags and start changing the way I dress and how I talk. They should like me for who I am.” Ironically, the people who use this excuse do not want to change, yet are often highly judgmental themselves.”

    I’ve come across a number of people who have this objection, and insulting them by calling them judgmental… doesn’t quite seem to address the objection.

    Do you have any thoughts on why that objection is flawed (aside from asserting that people with that objection “often” have other character flaws), and how people with that objection can get over it?

  286. OK, storybox.

    We were at the previously mentioned lifestyle event, and we use a story that’s been in our storybox previously. The short short version, my girlfriend’s son, raids our bedroom, and gets into the “toys” and then has also destroyed some very expensive ones. The story has been honed a bit, to focus on some of the more detailed highlights that work great in that crowd. It gets some great laughs and some interaction from the people listening to the stories asking either follow up questions, or providing some engaging feedback, that showed they were paying attention to our story. It’s a tag team story told by my girlfriend and I. However, I am sure this story can be improved even further. Because I don’t think we always are able to read the entire crowd.

    Another story (new one) that was told, was discussing the story Sex at Dawn. I was discussing the synopsis of the book, and one of the key points. The book is about the sexual pre-history of humans, and advised that one of the key points is that humans were not “wired” for sexual or emotional monogamy. There were two or three people actively listening, and they provided follow up questions to show they were interested. It was not meant to be a funny story, more a thought provoking one. I think it went well, but has much room to be refined. This is a good story to use to ID those that are interested/exploring a Poly lifestyle, versus those that would have no interest in it.

    What are my weaknesses… (since you asked that in the video, and not in the post).. I think I go on and on way too long, this post should be some testament to that fact. I have not learned how to be brief, my girlfriend will requestly ask for the “Carla version” which tells me I have been going on too long, at least for her tastes. I also have issues with not being the interrigator. I seem to be ok at saying hello, but then tend to be way more question, question, question, without too many statements to connect back with them in a more positive manner. I feel that I cannot read the flow of the conversation as well as I should have, so at times I am disconnected from the audience.

    I am hoping this is detailed enough, sometimes while verbose, I am too broad as well…. So I look forward to your feedback, and your help. After all new year, no more excuses, new me.

    Thanks, Allyn

  287. I want to improve on recognizing visual cues that tell me to either wrap up a what I’m saying or keep it going. I have several stories that are reduced to one-line teasers on my resume and bio sheet. They are there to generate interest and encourage potential clients to ask “Can you tell me more about X?”

    This morning, while pitching my new consulting business to a potential client, one of my stories got teed up. It dealt with a service that I had just learned was 25% of the potential client’s billings, but due to lack of staff, similar business was regularly turned away. I decided that the 2-minute story would be enough time to share the value I’d bring to the client.

    While telling the 2-minute story, I noticed some odd gestures (client’s forearm over the mouth, sniffling noises) that I wrote off to a lingering bad cold, which caused a postponement from last week until today. Then, the wrist watch glance happened close to the end, so I wrapped it up within a few seconds of the glance.

    The remainder of our half-hour meeting was cordial and professional. I received some great advice, and intelligence on what a certain market segment will pay for professional services. But I’ll admit I’m a bit concerned about the gestures and the wrist watch glance. I’m not sure if I missed something during the meeting, or if I’m being paranoid.

  288. My biggest weakness would probably have to be my over-animating conversations. I find my voice becomes monotone when telling stories (even if they’re not long) and if I notice it I think I try to compensate by waving my hands everywhere and I have a feeling my facial features are just completely abnormal. The problem is I can’t even try recording myself because it only seems to happen when I’m on a roll.
    I ramble all the time around people I know, but when it comes to people I’m meeting the first time or job interviews, I flop unless I have some kind of notes in front of me. I’ve been unemployed for about five years now and was only at my first job for about two years. Add that to my homebody tendencies and I’m not exactly the life of a party. I’m social online but verbal conversations with strangers tend to scare me for the most part. I’m ok with going up to someone when I need help with directions or have basic questions but if I try to carry a conversation, my mind goes blank its almost like a blackout session.
    One situation that comes to mind is my first job interview in a new field. I was forced to expand my horizons when jobs in my dream area were not giving me results, so I applied for an internship and became the good little student. I studied the business, tried finding the interviewer’s facebook, and even did some background on the field like a good student. I was confident the night before and even on the way to the interview but as soon as I stepped into the building I might as well have just turned around and gone back home. I lost my train of thought because I was so worried having to carry the conversation and prove that I was a good fit for that position. So I started drawing on what I did know but I’m sure I came off as crazy woman who smiled too much and awkwardly waved her hands around grasping at straws. Ha, even rereading what I’ve just written makes me feel socially inadequate!

  289. Hello there!

    My biggest weakness would definitely be my story telling. More often then not I’ll tell some very big or meaningful story about my life. I can somewhat have people engaged while I am telling the story but afterwards I get no response or if I do it’s: “Is that it?” And these are good stories. I know these are good because my best friend Ethan who is commonly part of these stories tells the stories himself, but the response he always gets afterwards is always some much better than I get. I just am not very good a my presentation and when I get to the point of the story that’s when it all falls apart.

    I also suck at talking with girls and approaching them.

    I’m 21 and have never been on a date due to my lack of approach (or something that I’m doing wrong.)

    Please help

  290. My biggest social problem:

    It’s not the typical “Not good at openers” or “Don’t know how to keep a conversation going.” I could definitely be better at those, but I’m not terrible and I have zero fear of meeting new people.

    My biggest problem is that there’s a monster inside me. His name is Socrates. Have you ever had a Socratic debate? Or, more precisely, had your personal opinions thoroughly ripped apart and examined in a Socratic manner? That’s me. Or at least a part of me, just waiting for the right trigger.

    You see, I LOVE Socratc debate. I enjoy being in a Socratic dialogue much the way I expect Chuck Norris enjoys sparring at the dojo. (He wouldn’t have put so much time into it if he didn’t enjoy it) It’s bracing in the absolute best possible way.

    And I’m fucking good at it too. I represented the USA at the Model UN national convention at Harvard. I got offered full rides to law schools based on my LSAT scores alone. Law school for me was like debate nerd heaven, and I actually had classmates tell me to tone in down in class because I made everyone look stupid. After less than a year outside of law school my supervising partner let me take calls vs partners from other law firms solo; “You’ve got this. Tear them a new one for me.”

    But, to use the Chuck Norris example again, you have to be careful how you interact with him. I bet it’s safe to shake his hand, but what about a fist-bump? If he remembers it’s just a fist-bump you’re safe, but if he just reacts reflexively, BOOM!, you’re on the ground with a broken face before you know what’s happening, and he’s all like “Fuck me, I’m so sorry. You just kind of caught me off guard and I just reacted. It’s a reflex.” Similarly a friendly game of touch football with Tom Brady could quickly get out of hand, I imagine.

    Well, that’s me. Only if someone asks me about topic XYZ, I want to take that topic apart and examine every little piece of it. This either quickly bores people because they really don’t care that much about XYZ (just making conversation), or they care too much (people take political issues WAY too personally).

    I’m trying to get better at this. Now that I’ve read Power of Habit (Thanks Ramit!) I’m going to start looking for what cues set the monster loose. (I never go Full So-Crates on a first impression; but I’ve found this is a good way to alienate people I’ve already invested two or more conversation in) Maybe I can implement a different canned response, like “Oh, fascinating. So … how about those Lakers, eh?”

  291. Hey, Ramit.
    My biggest weakness actually has to do with everyday conversation that happens with a lot of people. I notice it the most when I’m talking with my immediate supervisor. No matter the subject, my answer to almost everything explained to me is “Oh, okay.” We could be talking about a hurricane thirty years ago that affected where he used to live, or he could be teaching me about how to make a certain dish better during plating. Whatever the subject, I keep saying “Oh, okay.” Just a flat line that more often than not, either makes the conversation fizzle, or turns into a little bit of teasing from him and any coworkers within earshot. The first thing I tried doing, (to slightly more than zero positive change) was changing how I said it. I would say it excitedly, then wait for HIM to carry the conversation to the next topic. Then I started changing from “Oh, okay.” to “Oh, alright,” which got me literally the same reaction from them. I have tried, on my own, to try to keep the conversation going, and to not slip into this cop-out line, as I like to think of it. For example, I asked a coworker one slow night about how he makes his alfredo sauce. He was explaining the ingredients, and I asked him “Well, how about adding nutmeg to it next time?”, remembering that I had just read how just a little nutmeg and cream go together. He just kinda stared at me as he thought of this, then just kinda shook his head and said “No, it’s not really a sweet sauce.” Similar attempts at keeping conversation going happen when I honestly try to make a statement or ask a question, instead of just falling flat with an “Oh, okay” very monotonously.

  292. I just stared my second week on the floor in the initial Transactions section of the federal credit union I just finished training at. A new position opened that is allowing anyone to apply for in a higher services position. Higher pay, and a chance for me to actually negotiate this time for my salary instead of just accepting like an idiot because it was a decent offer. (I know, I know…I wish I had read your material 2 months ago before that offer) lol Only problem is this position deals with a lot more problems, difficult technical details and many more problem customers. (which I want ultimately want nothing to do with) I eventually want to move into Quality Control. I’m wondering if it is worth the raise and potential negotiated increase as well. It is only a stepping stone to another position, but I’m not sure it is worth it because there is no telling how long I will be in this new position if I get it. I made contact with an Assistant VP today that is going to meet me. She was a networking contact who got me pushed into my initial position. I was glad that I got the guts to get her to meet me in person. That will be this week some time. We’ll see how it goes. This company is booming and never has layed off anyone. I know there is tons of room for me to move up if I do it right. Just don’t want to mess myself up along the way.

  293. One of the areas I struggle most with, in terms of social skills, is being self conscious and shy. I hate going to networking functions alone because I don’t want to be standing by myself, the only one not engaged in conversation. So when I do, I become nervous and hyper aware of my body language. In my head this inevitably turns into an awkwardly dry, anything-but-comedic sketch and the painful self commentary makes it easy to second guess myself and hard to start a conversation.

  294. My biggest challenge is interacting with people in a group when there is an alpha-male present. I have no problems holding my own 1-1, in a group setting, males, females, or mixed, but if an alpha-male comes into the conversation and starts dominating the conversation, I have a hard time staying involved in the conversation.

    I’ve tested a few different methods, with varying degrees of success. One method I’ve tried is to try to “out-alpha” the alpha, although this normally ends poorly. I’m a smaller guy and not naturally very aggressive, so while I’m aiming to end up coming across as strong and interested, I’ve picked up on the fact that people perceive me to be agitated. A second method I’ve tested is to remove myself from the conversation and try to circle back to that group later; this “works” but I get the feeling that I lose social standing and seem like a loser who’s unable to hold his own. The best method I’ve tested is try to diffuse the alpha male with a bit of humor, by light-heartedly poking fun of him. This method can go over really well if my joke is well-time and well-received, but if the joke falls flat then I’m in trouble.

    I think my best path forward is to develop a few different joke “scripts” and see which one works the best.

  295. I think my most damaging mindset regarding social skills before now is one you named in your video: “I don’t have to engage in small talk because I’m the kind of person that just gets right to the point.” I have this mindset with friends and strangers alike, and it prevents me from making real connections at times.

    One way this impacts me is with my girlfriend. There have been times in the past where she has called me and I’ll immediately answer the phone and say, “What?” instead of something normal like, “Hello.” I tend to do this when I’m already busy doing something, and know she’s calling because she needs something or has a question, so I try to get to the point immediately. Predictably, this doesn’t go over so well; she got mad and went on a tirade about how I can’t do that, especially not to other people, how rude it is, etc. While I was unwilling to see her point of view at the time, it makes sense to just answer with something less abrupt; if I make it a habit to be abrupt, I could end up messing something important up without thinking. Even changing it to “Hey, what’s up?” might be a better way to be conversational, yet still identify the problem immediately.

    Another way this impacts me is just being in a car or a room with one or two friends at a time. When the conversation runs out, it’s hard for me to just pick up with random small talk, especially when you spend a lot of time with that one person or group of people and already know a lot. So there’s times when me and another person just sit there in silence and I’m actually comfortable with that, yet at the same time it’s just EMBARRASSING that I could ever be comfortable with being that awkward. In a way I think this is sometimes related to a lack of interest on my part, and that if I would just take a more active role in my personal relationships, I would be able to help alleviate this problem. So my inability to make small talk is partially due to my inability to be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. This varies a lot from person to person. One way to fix this is to start trying to implement the advice you gave in the video: Recognize that I’m always in control, not relying on the other person to control it for the both of us, and being genuinely interested in what that person has to say, which will help me personally to be more active.

    One story I’ve used to deadly effect before to get people laughing is about the brownies at the dining hall of my college. All of the food there has a reputation for being hard on the colon, but due to one of my friend’s bad experiences with the brownies in particular, I always warn people away from them while we’re at the dining hall. It’s a story that everyone on campus can laugh at and appreciate, and it always sparks debate at the table, with people who regularly eat the brownies swearing by them, while myself and a few others lament them. This has worked out several times in the past when new people eat dinner with our group and end up getting brownies, resulting in those people feeling more comfortable with our group as a whole.

  296. My biggest social challenge is small group participation. I ca manage meeting people one on one in large social settings, but when I have the attention of a group focused on me I feel heart pounding with anxiety. My brain goes into flight response, I avoid eye contact with anyone and try as quick as possible to divert attention away from me. This often happens on clients calls at work when my boss asks me to weigh in on something. I’ve tried focusing on one person to speak to make it seem more one on one but sometimes that seems awkward since it might be the person who asked the question.

  297. I consider myself an effective communicator and I’m someone that can start conversations with complete strangers. I wasn’t always good at it but got better practicing on customers, usually attractive women (in my single days), while working at Starbucks during University.

    I would test things like complementing different items (purse, glasses etc..) Usually commenting (not always complimenting) on something unusual that they were wearing that I sincerely liked or found interesting.

    My biggest weaknesses now are a combination of dominating conversations, focusing on myself more than the other person, and I’m told, being short with people whom I do not find interesting.

    The second weakness I have been aware of for some time, I just find talking about myself an easy topic because I am the world’s expert. The other two I wasn’t really aware of until my fiance pointed them out to me.

    One of the strategies I have tested is when I find myself becoming bored with a conversation or person, I try to find something I can learn from them that I didn’t know before. For example, I was getting my hair cut by someone new. As we got to talking I found we didn’t have much in common and she probably isn’t someone I would want to spend a lot of time with outside of the salon. I didn’t want to offend her by letting her know I thought she was boring, (Something I do to people without realizing it by acting cold or distant, not consciously, and often not aware I am doing it.) Knowing that I will be stuck there until she was done I tried to think of things I could ask to learn something new. I knew she sometimes did hair for models before fashion shows or shoots so I asked her what’s different when cutting someone’s hair in the salon vs at a fashion show. The conversation then became much more interesting as we got into it and naturally changed to the topic of hair competitions (something I never knew existed) In this instance it worked and we build a good rapport.

    I find the trick is trying to pinpoint an interesting thing to get them to talking before I inevitably fill the conversation with things only I care about such as discussions about myself and life. Sometimes I pull it off successfully, other times I don’t and people get bored of hearing about me or whatever story I am telling in the moment.

    This is my biggest weakness.

  298. You know, Ramit, the one social issue that I believe is hurting most right now is my inability to talk about my art. The issue can arise when I speak to curators, potential buyers and even friends. Typically, I can talk to any one person. I like banter. Other people’s lives interest me. People (strange people) have followed me home! Yikes.

    Once a person broaches the subject of my art, a part of me leaves the conversation and hides behind my mother’s fat leg. As a child, I used to employ this behavior during any formal introduction. When this happens, when I hide, another person (who looks exactly like me) appears and starts talking. “She” is verbose but elusive. I eventually remove myself from the situation. Or worse, the potential client does!

    As of today, I have an interview next week with a gallery owner who approached me. I feel both grateful and green around the gills. I have six days to prepare.

    Potential Toolbox Story: My housemate went away for the weekend, knowing I was going to have company. She did not clean out the litter box. I ended up cleaning it out but left both bags in the hallway. I emptied the bags of kitty leftovers back into the litter box just before her return.

    Actually, I ended up throwing the bags in the dumpster, but I and my guest had a great laugh over the thought. Maybe next time.

    Thank you, Ramit.
    Heather

  299. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest social challenge is that I tend to follow the lead of the person to whom I am talking. For example, if the person I am talking to is full of positive energy, I will act and reciprocate in kind. But if the person is more introverted and quiet, I tend to act the same in their presence. I want to be and appear more energetic in some circumstaces when I know I am not receiving it from the other person.

  300. Hi Ramit,

    Thanks for doing this! Very helpful and I’m excited to see what else you have in store for us.

    It is a toss up between these.
    1. I am so afraid to go to a social function by myself, because I have a tough time starting a conversations with stranger. Sometimes I will even avoid the event because of it.
    2. I’m not a rambler at all – but I notice quite frequently I lose peoples attention while telling a story (even if it is short) and I don’t know why. It bothers me a lot.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  301. I’m a bit of an introvert and English is not my mother tongue so I might be the victim of an invisible script preventing me from being more social.

  302. My biggest social weakness is an inability to come out of my world and truly interact with strangers. Just today, for example, I was talking to a lady before my yoga class because the instructor was late. I took kind of a big step for me and asked her how her weekend was, and she told me about going to see Zero Dark Thirty and going to a museum. Those are both solid starting points for a conversation! But I was so stuck in my head at hearing “Zero Dark Thirty,” a movie that I have already had a few negative arguments with friends about, that it took me a while to fumble over that and try to follow up on the museums.

    This conversation lingered in to the room on life support, after I’d checked my phone a few times after realizing I had no good museum anecdotes to share. Someone commented on my shoes, I talked about those and made a joke, and that same lady came back and said “I really like your sense of humor.”

    I had no idea how to take that compliment. I smiled, didn’t say anything, and let the conversation die. Generally, I feel like I am holding my own these days in social situations compared to where I USED to be, but I don’t get many chances to practice in my line of work, and it shows.

  303. I’ve always been conscious about social situations. In high school I was picked the prom king but couldn’t tell you much about the experience because I was in the bathroom puking my guts up. In freshman year of college, we had to take public speaking. The professor was a 4ft shrewd character who spoke perfect English. He chastised this poor girl the 1st day of class so bad that my hyper-reflexive gag kicked in and I started hacking right in class–I ran out and never returned–I still remember my friends laughing. I’ve regretted not going back to that class for the last 22 years. Some years later I remember being put on the spot in a large business meeting. I felt my neck getting hot, I felt the sweat start to drip from my forehead. Certain that people were noticing, I struggled for something to say and as I tried to string more than three words together, some strange sound came from my mouth that I’d never heard before, or since. What did it sound like? The only thing I could compare it to would be feeding time at the zoo–yeah, that bad. I’ll never forget. I’ve fought hard against my anxiety over the years and tried to never let it beat me. But its always there, and it’s been responsible for numerous invisible scripts.

  304. For me, It’s easy to get going, but I tend to get too engaged. This shows up as talking too fast, skipping important points, and at the end of my conversations, I wonder if people understand what I was saying, or just agree because of my enthusiasm.

    I’m speaking publicly more and more as my career advances, and my next step is practicing the skills to polish my delivery and make sure my message sticks.

  305. The following is utterly true:

    6:35am – Reema reads Monday’s post.

    6:41am – Reema looks up and yonder into the semi-darkness and says out loud “I have no words. This sh*t is awesome.”

    Riddle me this, riddle me good, riddle me like you know you should: Why did the recovering alcoholic visit a bar, by herself, on a Friday night? Hint: It wasn’t because she was looking to engage in stimulating conversation. Well . . not in the literal, verbal sense, that is.

    She was there to flirt with disaster. And, poor woman, “disaster”, on that dark, stormy night, came in the form of Ramit, his atrocious pick-up artistry, and his blog.

    (I just got hit with a wave of deja vu. And nausea.)

    I’m Ramit’s actress friend. In my own work, I write a lot about fears, social conditioning, relationships, gender dynamics, etc., so reading this post evoked a “Ramit, for the last time, get the f*ck out of my head. SMF”. Which I imagine is a response he evokes in many of you, though perhaps with less animosity.

    I am continuously inspired by the material on IWT. I think Dream Job, 80/20, now the Story Toolbox, everything Ramit and his team are doing is extraordinary. It’s fascinating, to see how something that started off (not too long ago, in the larger scheme of things) as a blog on personal finance, has evolved in a very organic way into a huge body of knowledge, a brand that teaches people tangible, tremendously effective ways to empower all facets of their lives. And I really admire that you, Ramit, actively embody those teachings, and share with us your stories of personal development too.

    Thank you for not disclosing the more private part of my story, especially as I know you know that sharing it with everyone would drive home your point even stronger, about the power of social skills. The story behind the story is that I wasn’t, in the slightest, born with access to some secret club, or set of skills. No. Not at all. There is no magical set of traits that renders someone “irresistible” (in fact, I’m laughing, writing that, because it’s strange to me to wrap my mind around being called that adjective). Because here’s the thing, and here is why I so believe in the kind of work IWT offers: Until I was 14, I was a severely awkward, fat, Bangladeshi nerd-girl, banished to the very bottom rung of the social hierarchy, and I was the last person anybody would ever call or find irressitable. I had the social skills of a piece of lint. The kind you find in your belly button. I had oily, pimply skin, frizzy hair, and terrible eye-sight. I had no friends, other than the ones inside my head, Celine Dion on my stereo (“All By Myself” on repeat), and my life-sized poster of Brad Pitt as “Tristan” in The Legends of the Fall. I would sob into my Honor’s Calculus homework, asking Brad “Why won’t they let me love them?? I have so much to give!” Then one day, I decided I’d had enough of the relentless bullying, the loneliness, the shame, anger, and confusion. I think I also had an invisible script, saying that if I was physically attractive, I would somehow be undercutting my intelligence – that they couldn’t coexist. Perhaps something about “deserving” or not . . . But, finally, I decided, hey, I’m done. ENOUGH. I got straight A’s at school, and I was going to do that on myself. I was going to be my own science project, research paper, study in human behavior, all rolled into one.

    I went to work the very next day. I started working out and watching what I ate. With uber nerd-zeal, I devoured every book and article I could find on nutrition, diet, body language, talking points, even how to write for theater and film, both drama and comedy. I started doing memory exercises, to help me not only retain the information, but how to best draw from it during social situations, taking what someone would tell me about them, and figure out what jokes or talking points I could offer, from parenting to pop culture to politics. I watched every movie ever made by the great female actresses and classic beauties of our time: Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman. Just by watching those women, the way they move, tilt their heads, move their wrists, glide through a room, how they laugh, how they hold, avert, and use eye contact, all that alone was such a huge wealth of information, on deconstructing, honing and leveraging the power of body language. Yes, I lost a lot of weight, changed my body type, took care of the skin and hair once and for all, learned how to dress and use make-up, and a few years later, got Lazik, but the biggest change was knowing what to do then with all that raw material. How to activate the resources. All those books and information went into deconstructing and rewiring my dismal, misguided social skills, to create something, someone, new. And I started doing theater at the same time, so I got to test everything I was learning not just among peers but also on stage, fine tuning the art of movement, speech, tone, etc., learning how to read and move an audience.

    I found my career path because of that decision I made, back when I was 14, to take responsibility for my life. I wanted to be the one directing my course – not the bullies, not my fears, not the conditioning or the barriers I had grown up with. And I am so grateful, beyond words, to have figured out early on that this is what I’m meant to do, and that part of my work as an actress and as a writer is to help others, especially women (we have a specific set of myths that run so deep because of our history, being the “Weaker Sex”), to figure out how to let go of our bullies, fears and barriers. Because beyond my casual social life, all my relationships grew deeper, and richer, once I took charge of my psychology, social skills, health, etc. and I know this is the case for everyone, anyone who wants to do the work. Remember all those years spent being the quiet geek/social outcast, observing the “finer creatures” from afar? Those skills for observing subtleties, filing away information, and connecting the dots all come into play. Picking up on nuances that really matter, like figuring out, through hidden cues, the ideal birthday present for Mom, or, how to best support a loved one during a time of grief, loss, hardship. Your sense of empathy grows, because all of your senses are becoming fine tuned, to pick up on silent language. That’s one of the most profound, significant changes: because you’re not wrapped up in your shell of insecurity anymore, you’re open, and more available to others, learning how to serve, love, embrace with more compassion and fullness. All that reading, testing, learning becomes part of your skin, your personality. Sure, social skills open that first door, but then they introduce you to realizing all sorts of parts of yourself you didn’t know you had. You understand not only how to nail down that interview or audition, but to go beyond that: how to be the best possible addition to that company, to help it grow to new heights. How to take that coveted job to the next level, to grow not only until you score that deal, but beyond the win. It’s not just about getting the guy or the girl to go out with you, but then being able to understand and truly take action on how you can best support and nurture that relationship, honoring his or her needs, while still prioritizing yours. Watch any incredible orator, politician, entertainer, and you will see that yes, they have that magic “It Factor”, but it has also been harnessed, worked and reworked, polished to brilliance. It’s sort of like living by 80/20 – you embody it, and people will come to you. (I say “80/20″ all the time now, though I’ve have own phrase I’ve used for years: “The Godfather”. As in, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” The “him” being THE WORLD :)

    I’m not writing this as humble-bragging. I’m writing to stress the point that in no way was I born with an intangible, magic golden ticket. Far, far, far from it. Anyone can do and become anything, any version of themselves that they choose to imagine, and act on. I’m writing because I so believe in the work IWT is doing, and the larger philosophy behind self-development. All of this can be learned, from studying and testing, and it’s available to anyone who wants to 1) understand the language and 2) take action towards making those changes in their own life. While my path has been slightly different, the systems you’ve created, Ramit, all that I’m reading here, are inherently so true, and have only enhanced anything else I’ve learned from other sources. Your tips and tools on negotiation have helped me in particular. Because of the way you clearly break them down and provide tested, perfected scripts, they’ve given me a clear road map to navigate a variety of situations – everything from dinner meetings with potential investors for my work, to personal conversations. By virtue of being human, none of us ever stops, or finishes, being a student, and it’s our job and privilege to take in knowledge, process it, digest it, break it all down, to then build something stronger, and better version of ourselves, to gain the skills we need to fulfill our larger purpose in this world. And it’s so fun and rewarding, the results, the transformation, all of it! See for yourself – you’ll be hearing so many Yes’s that you’ll have to practice how to say No, Thank You. And I really appreciate, Ramit, that you stressed the importance of using social skills, the other knowledge and power that comes with it, in an ethical and transparent manner. Because there’s a reason why the words “irresistible” and “irresponsible” sound so similar. With great power comes great responsibility. Holla, Spiderman. We have to act with consciousness, because otherwise, all sorts of crazy can happen. . . One of us can wake up, bound and gagged in a dungeon, the word “checkmate” finger-painted across their forehead in pig’s blood. Hint: The person roped to the wall, will not be me, Ramit. Guess who the odds are favoring . .

    Oh, and in regards to Saturday’s post, and Brett’s comment about social skills-ing his girlfriend and another yet-to-be-decided woman into a threesome . . . Child’s play, my friend. CHILD’S PLAY. But . . that tested-and-perfected script is reserved solely for my blog.

    Congratulations, Ramit, and the incredible IWT team. Thank you for the work you’re all doing. It’s so exciting, and inspiring.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute, Reema! I realised three years ago at 29 what you realised at 14. I’d always felt awkward and ugly and inferior but it suddenly dawned on me that this was not going to change unless I made the changes myself. So at 29 I decided to stop hiding and hoping nobody would notice me, and set myself the goal of “coming out in society” for my 30th birthday. Of course I wish the truth had hit me earlier, but on the plus side, I have the added advantage of DECADES of sitting quietly in my corner of the world observing others’ interactions.

      What Ramit does on this site here is priceless, and I only hope that I can have the same impact, because – even in my three short years of personal transformation – I’ve learned that the best part of life really is watching and helping other people discover and uncover who they really are.

    • Thank you for sharing that. It’s a beautiful post. I see that in your post those things which the women around me who inspire me, embody. :)

  306. I started writing something that was going to get long and realize I wasn’t even talking about what’s really my biggest issue. I have trouble making sure that I’m not in the clouds or lost in some obscure literary reference.

    Seriously, I will quote a (relevant) line from poetry or drop a philosophical reference into the conversation and assume my point gets across and not even realize it didn’t until later. That’s on good days. It’s like I’m thinking and talking in wikipedia citations, except I’ve been doing this all my life, and I can count on one hand the number of people who have called BS. People just smile and pretend I made sense in conversation. It was really frustrating to realize I haven’t been and it’s been a struggle to even figure out how to get it under control.

    Sometimes they’ll ask me to clarify and will work through it with me, but I hate making people do that because they shouldn’t have to.

    sometimes it’s basically ok. As long as it’s small talk that doesn’t have to really mean anything, there’s nothing frustrating since it’s just banter. Nowadays I don’t monopolize the conversation–I just don’t really build it, either.

  307. My number one weakness is without a doubt my stutter. I do not always stutter but the more nervous or apprehensive I am then the more it is there. An example that I still hear about every now and then is where I lost a position on my football team for a special play we had because I could not say the name of the play clearly and concisely. As a result my self confidence is lowered in certain interactions. Speaking professionally or to a large group can be extremely nerve racking to me. I am towards the end of my college career and have put off taking the required speech class. I hate talking on the phone because it happens. This is one of the reasons why I have trouble telling stories. I always disrupt the flow of the story and it bombs. If I’m with a group of friends I tend to sit back and listen to others tell jokes. Most of the time others beat me to the “witty comeback” not because I didn’t think of it but because I was afraid to say it. Just the other day it was the first day of class and the teacher made us go around and do introductions. My palms started to sweat because I thought I would mess up. After I blurted out my name it took 10 minutes for the knot of tension in my stomach to ease. Because of this I come off as cold and disinterested.

  308. Biggest Weakness: Despite the fact that I have two X chromosomes, I do the typical guy thing – I tend to talk about myself to much. I also tend to listen with an ear towards providing a response from my own personal experience rather than really listening to what the other person is saying. Just acknowledging that I do this has made more more aware of it, so I keep it in mind when I am in a conversation now.

    Storytelling:
    The first time I went to a shooting range, I broke the gun.

    I went to the shooting range with my husband so he could do some shooting before deploying to Iraq. I’d never been near a gun before and found them quite intimidating, but he set me up with a target and let me fire his rental pistol to try it out. I’ve shot a few rounds then try to pull the trigger and its stuck. Then I try to clear the chamber and it won’t clear, which means there’s a live round in the chamber. I set the gun down very carefully and ask the hubby to check it out.

    Of course, he rolls his eyes, then tries to fire – doesn’t work. Tries to clear the chamber – doesn’t work. Then we get the range attendant to come in, who also rolls his eyes at both of us, does both of the same things and can’t get it to clear or fire either. The attendant ended up taking it off the range with the live round and taking apart the gun. The rail had cracked (due to frequent use, it being a rental) and so the gun was a throwaway. But I’ve avoided firearms after since they obviously don’t agree with me. :)

  309. Jessica M Frey Link to this comment

    I was fortunate to grow up around my mother who is the family story teller. In fact, a project of mine I’ve been working on is transcribing and re-writing our family stories as told by her as she isn’t comfortable writing. One of my favorite stories to tell is about my mom. I tell it for several reasons:
    1) It is a nice snap shot of my family, and people can usually relate to commonalities in family stories.
    2) It is appropriate for work or social interactions.
    3) It is a great way of explaining why I like working in manufacturing.

    I always start the story with “you know how the older you get, the wiser your parents become, or at least you finally realize how good their advice really is” because most people can relate to this kind of experience. I then explain how my mom’s opinion on bread making is one of those pieces of advice for me. (People are usually intrigued and curious because bread is not a topic of common motherly advice.) My mom’s always been a full-time working mother and even when I was little she loved to make bread. Coworkers and friends would ask her all the time why she bothered when she worked full time on a swing shift as a night nurse, had a young child at home, and her husband worked full time. Wasn’t she too busy for making bread? Wasn’t it just easier to buy? Her response was always counted off on her fingers (which I do as well when retelling).

    I like making bread because:
    1) there is a beginning, middle and end
    2) there’s no committee work
    3) there’s a formula and system that can be duplicated successfully but also improved upon
    4) at one point I get to take any of the week’s frustrations out on the dough
    5) everyone likes the results and no one complains.
    I then segue this into why I like working in manufacturing and enjoy project management highlighting the satisfaction at being able to point at a final result in the form of a manufactured product. In a world of information and customer service workers, I find this to be an effective way to explain why I do what I do. Usually, the story is well received. I told it successfully again today at a meeting with a prospect.

    It’s taken me a couple of years to refine the story down to something this short as I tend to give too much background before swinging into a story, but now it’s an easy go to. I almost always follow up the ‘what do you do’ question with this story highlighting the satisfaction of ‘making things’ and then segue into asking the other person about any nuggets of wisdom they appreciate more in hindsight. I’ve never had someone not respond to that question.

  310. When I go to social events by myself, I get very overwhelmed by the amount of people I do not know. As a result, I spend most of the time finding things to occupy my hands like food or beverages and then I pace up and down the party. I probably look a bit strange although I try to act cool as I avoid people.

    I know this does not make any sense that I would go to a social event to not engage with people. On the chance that I snap out of my self-inflicted torture, I still find that my guard is up when I interact with people and the conversation seems stiff and awkward.

    That’s why I really liked when you touched upon the mindset one should have or adopt when engaging people in small talk at social events. That was a breakthrough for me.

  311. Hi Ramit,

    My greatest social challenge is my difficulty in speaking up in a group setting. Whether it’s at a professional event, in the classroom, at a bar, restaurant, or group interview, I struggle to contribute to the conversation unless someone specifically asks for my opinion. This has especially hurt me in group job interviews, but it’s also obviously a huge disadvantage for a multitude of other reasons. I am improving my small talk skills in one-on-one situations, something I now enjoy, but I still feel hesitant to say anything when I am with more than a few people. Additionally, I am fairly shy and lack self-confidence, and thus sometimes have difficulties in approaching people and initiating the conversation. I would love the opportunity to receive expert training, especially as I am nearing graduation and my job search is increasingly becoming my focus! Also, I have a wonderful engaging story for my storytelling toolbox. When I was an intern in DC, the office next door to mine planned to use our conference room for an all day workshop. However, on the morning of the event, no one in my entire office showed up except for me, the lowly, unpaid intern, who was then forced to take charge for about 20 minutes. It’s a funny story, but it’s also an opportunity for me to showcase how I had to rise to an unexpected challenge.

    Best,
    Crystal

  312. Great video – it has really made me think. I thought I didn’t have stories to tell until I started typing this, but I do have one that gets other people talking. It’s a story about how changing the routing settings on the GPS from fastest to shortest took me on a scary drive through somebody’s field – in Germany, in a bright red American tank (=Chevy Monte Carlo) that was too big to turn around on the one lane (not one lane each way, but one lane total, and no shoulder, just a ditch) road.

    I especially liked the part of the video about extricating oneself from a conversation. As a nurse on a busy cardiac floor, I had to find ways to do that. Not always to end conversations, but to redirect them when they got too personal. Often, about 30 seconds after I introduced myself to a patient, the 20 questions would start: are you married? do you have children? are you sure you’re old enough to be a nurse? and (my favorite, this is down South) which church do you go to? And on and on. It took a few tries to develop the right response. The one that worked every single time: “Interesting question. When was your last bowel movement?”

  313. To be honest, I think when it comes to social skills my biggest problem is that I think I’m boring! I do fairly well at the beginning of a conversation. I ask the other person questions, follow up with more questions, reflect what I’m hearing. But then when somebody asks something about ME, I kind of freeze. I mean, I’ll come up with an answer, but it the back of my head the script is running…. “I don’t have anything nearly as interesting to say as they do… They are going to think whatever I say is lame…. Blah Blah Blah….” Then of course I get anxious and freeze.

    So I like your idea of the Story Toolbox a lot! But still, as I sit here, I try to think of one good story for the toolbox and think – nothing I have to say will make me seem interesting or funny or super smart. I will have to work really hard on coming up with something though. I think it will really boost my confidence knowing that when the conversation turns to me I have something to offer.

  314. At one time or another I’ve been guilty of many of these attributes but I’m very, very guilty of the “I can only speak in one-tone regardless of how EXCITED I am” and the “let me give you all the little details because they seem plot-essential” weaknesses the most. Especially at business conferences but quite a bit in my social life as well.

    I’ve got a group of 5 girl friends who hang out quite a bit, and I can see my friends glazing over, tuning out, and hunting for something more interesting while I’m telling any story including hilarious dating stories, juicy work gossip, or even a serious moments of sadness. I’m so confused by this in social settings that I had to ask a few people whether or not I was boring. Of course they all said no, but I feel like I can’t keep up an engaging conversation if my life depended on it.

    I am able to start conversations and ask insightful questions, but even when I came back from a vacation and someone asked about it of their own volition on our brief walk to lunch, they tuned out and got distracted in less than a minute as I explained that the weather was great but I didn’t get to do a lot of what I had planned since my friends were sick.

    One of my friends actually praised me on how I can add expression just by the cadence of my speech instead of by tone (in comparison to the pitchy, volume laden tactics of keeping control of the convo) and I’ve been baffled thinking about it ever since.

    While I can handle small talk, I have a friend who’s much much better at it and keeping people engaged. I’ve been trying to break down her method but I’m missing something since it seems like she just blurts out whatever is on the top of her head at that instance.

  315. Often I will be having a decent to good conversation with a person. When a third party drops in and takes the reins. After the third party leaves, I struggle to resume the conversation. Do I ask about what they were talking about or stick to what we were talking about before? I hesitate as the hesitation turns to a cessation.

  316. My biggest weakness in a social setting is not feeling confident enough that I will not be engaging enough to get past the first few sentences with the person I’m attempting to talk to. With the lack of self-confidence is the fear that I’ll forget what it is I had planned to say and, naturally, I do. I have been forcing myself to attend events with the explicit goal to mingle and meet new people but find that I seek out the few people that I know and chat with them in hopes that they’ll introduce me to new people, which they do. Once they’ve moved away, however, my confidence declines and I’m back to not knowing what to say because the fear overrides everything else, including what self-confidence I had been able to muster at the event.

  317. My biggest challenge is ending a conversation. I’m so bad at it, that my girlfriend even makes fun of me because I don’t even know how to end a conversation on the phone with my dad. I get stuck in this endless loop of being almost done a conversation and getting a clean exit (I see daylight!) and then I don’t know what happens and the conversation just keeps going. After trying to stop a half dozen times are so, the conversation just dies a slow and painful death. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but it needs to get fixed, because it seriously kills any good conversation and leaves a poor lasting impression (plus I’m wasting time in conversations that are destroying my soul).

  318. Hey Ramit, thanks for the posts. I’m proud to say I’ve learned most of the tactics during my own journey of becoming a social ninja. Here’s a little background info about me, I started my Bachelor studies in IT as a shy, socially oblivious nerd. I hardly left my room because I thought straight A’s alone would land me the job that would supply the money that would get me the power which would attract the girl of my dreams and then I could finally be happy. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
    After a friend and I decided we should get girlfriends because it would be “cool,” I stumbled upon the pick-up community and consumed every single ebook I could click on. After filling my head with a bajillion rules that were supposed to magically turn me into Don Juan, I somehow managed to explore new depths of the sinister sea of social awkwardness. One point of horror was when I attended a ballroom dance course and tried all the ridiculous lines and negs and other BS on girl after girl after girl while dragging them through a bastardized version of the waltz. I’m pretty sure the guards at Guantanamo Bay would have shaken their heads at that behavior. Regardless, even though a part of me cringes when I look back on it, I’m glad I took action to be more social.
    I continued pushing myself to gain more social awareness by working as a resident assistant and setting up challenges to get better with women and people in general. Currently I’m at a point where I can connect with others on a personal level consistently. During conversations I usually listen through people’s words to their emotions and try to respond to what they’re really saying.
    My current challenge is that I’m studying abroad in Austria and feel like I’m not taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with tons of contacts while I’m over here. The good news is I don’t head back to the US till July so if I can tweak my social skills now, I’ll be able to make huge headway in the coming months before returning home.
    The sticking points… I’m trying to pick up German while I’m over here and I’m dedicated to learning and using it, but in conversations, I’m so stuck in my head thinking of the vocabulary and grammar that there’s no way I’m focused on social cues. I’ve been chatting with people on the bus, while walking to school, and whenever I buy something at the grocery store. It’s definitely not a common approach, but it’s getting me closer to fluency faster than only talking to people in social settings. Any tips or tricks to help accelerate the process? Do you know of any resources that break down social constructs in different cultures? It’s a common topic of my conversations.
    Miscellaneous sticking points: I feel I’m lacking in self-awareness of crafting my communication with regard to my physical size. I have a wiry build at 5’6″ yet feel like I’m living the life of a 6’5″ superhero. I’m not sure how this affects how others perceive what I say or if my size even matters (my height, you sicko). Have you noticed any changes in how people converse with you since adding on muscle and filling out your supermodel body? Miscellaneous point two, I feel like I treat everyone like my peer, but this dynamic seems to make some people reeaallly uncomfortable, especially when trying to connect professionally. Just curious if you’ve experienced that and would be grateful for any advice.
    Cheers,
    Andrew

  319. I find that I do well once I’m in a conversation. I tell the person that I’m a circus artist, they act surprised and ask me how I got into it, and then I open into an extremely well rehearsed and tested story about cute college girls asking me to lift them up. Conversation has fully commenced.

    However, my biggest challenge is in approaching someone new, especially a group. It’s at its worse when it comes to meeting women. I vowed to work on this, so for one month, once a week. I would go out into downtown Seattle and not leave until I made some sort of verbal interaction with at least 6 women. I would blatantly follow women around bookshelves trying to say hello or approach some women, open my mouth and attempt to say hello but only end up smiling with my mouth wide open in what I assumed to be a gargoyle-like grin.

    The best was when I, after 20 minutes of arguing in my head, finally talked to a girl sitting behind me. I asked her about her backpack brand (?!) but then admitted to only saying that just so that I could say hello to a cute girl. She melted, waiting for me to continue…I didn’t. I freaked out not knowing what to say next: “yeah, uh… have a nice day…” and then I walked to the front of the bus to wait for my stop for the longest two minutes ever.

    What I’ve done to work on this:
    - Only allow myself 3 seconds to approach a person I find interesting, regardless of whether I know what to say
    - Slowly changing my mental state, to feeling like a rockstar by recalling those sort of past experiences
    - Practicing making small talk with people, even if it feels silly
    - Saying hello twice as loud as I feel comfortable and introduce myself at what seems to be an excruciatingly slow pace

    I still notice, however, that my body language and voice betray me when I approach. My body language is weak, voice week, and speech sped up.

  320. I would have to say I’m good at starting a conversation but can’t continue a conversation. If I were on a TV show, you would hear crickets when I meet someone for the first time and desperately try to continue the convo.

    I’ve been in many situations where I’m struggling to speak to new people and I’ve had many bad conversations, so many that I’ve probably blocked them out of my memory. I’m also terrible at telling stories and picking the wrong stories to tell. My husband thinks it’s cute but it’s not cute when you hear crickets.

    One story I can think about was when I was in a meeting with new co-workers and we had to around and introduce ourselves and tell a funny story. I was so nervous because I hate public speaking and I couldn’t think of a funny story. Thank goodness I didn’t go first because it gave me some time. It’s my turn and I say my name and tell them how one time when I was young I decided to on roof of the garage and jump down and how I landed on my butt and could have broken my legs. To me in my head it was a hilarious story but when I delivered it speaking fast and nervous, and when I was finished – it was dead silence. Someone even said “that’s your funny story?” oh man I wanted to crawl under the table. Not only did I pick the wrong funny story, these people think I’m an idiot.

    I need help Ramit! HELP!!!

  321. I consider myself super smart. I research thoroughly and analyze deeply the many subjects that interest me. When I’m one-on-one with a trusted friend, I can be articulate and persuasive. But in a group, or in a professional meeting with new people, I defer to others and start mumbling when I need to speak. I’m screaming inside with the answers and information that the others are seeking but seem to lack the confidence to put it out there loudly and be the focus of attention.

    I have a friend whose voice is like honey – she won the state storytelling championship in high school and could literally read the phone book and people will be enthralled. Her voice is lilting and animated and enchanting. We hang out with the same friends and she can say the EXACT thing that I just said (or tried to say) where I got no response and don’t even know if anyone heard me… meanwhile they’ll be blown away by her ‘brilliance’. She can even say things that are obvious and everyone acts like it was a stroke of genius because of how she speaks and presents it. For example I had recommended a ‘Dogme’ film called The Celebration to our friends and no one paid any attention. Then months later, D. recommended the same movie and they all said they’d rush out and order it, how do you spell that, etc? Argh!

    So I’d like to combine my good insights with that kind of expression. Maybe it comes down to confidence. I took a writing class where we had to do readings in front of a large, live, paying audience at the end of 12 weeks. I was terrified so I prepped the hell out of my story. It went extremely well, people loved it. I was actually high from all the attention and craved more! (I took the class again and improvised the next time – also went well because I had my original comic story well rehearsed then decided to go “off book” to challenge myself.) The more I put myself in uncomfortable situations the stronger I seem to get. The more I am seen and heard, the confidence builds on itself.

    I think I’m convincing myself to take an acting class or join a Toastmasters group, at least. Clearly practice is important.

    THANKS for all your insights Ramit. You make it easy and painless because I can SO relate to what you teach and the way you teach it. Bless you!

  322. My biggest weakness is that I’m usually outgoing, but not necessarily confident.

    I know it sounds like those two ideas mean the same thing, but let me explain. I just recently started a job as a technical recruiter for a national staffing firm. The whole job is basically talking to people and building relationships and I’m a fairly outgoing person, so I have no problem saying hi or asking to talk to someone, but I’m so new that I’m still learning my industry and trying to deal with people who have more years of professional experience than I’ve been alive. So I don’t always feel confident once I’ve started talking to them.

    What winds up happening, is that, while I’m on the phone with someone, I’ll ask a question. Instead of just shutting up at that point and letting them answer, I’ll qualify my question. Maybe two or even three ways. And that’s dumb, because 1) I know that I don’t know enough about the industry or recruiting to qualify my question intelligently, and 2) they’ll probably tell me more if I just shut up and let them actually speak. But it doesn’t just happen on the phone.

    For example, my manager asked me the other day how many calls I had made. I gave him a number. Then I explained that 3 of those calls were reference checks. And two of those calls were to confirm a meeting with a candidate. And another one was someone calling me back, so, actually, the number of calls I had made to new potential contractors was probably closer to — “DUDE. YOU THINK TOO MUCH SOMETIMES.” He just cut me off at that point. It was a good thing, too. I might have gone on for a few more minutes.

    And that was just in a room with my manager — someone whose success is, in a very large part, a direct reflection of my success. (I recruit for his client’s open positions, so if I don’t do well neither does he.) Imagine what it’s like for someone on the other end of the phone, or some poor girl at a party, or whoever reads this and is wondering why I’m still writing…

    Anyway, this is partly why I took the recruiting job in the first place — I figured that, if any job was going to force me to improve my social skills, this was it. That being said, it would still be incredible to get picked to do the social skills training! :)

  323. It’s hard for me to pick one weakness, since I think of my social skills as about an inch above zero–I’m scared to talk to start conversations; people tend to zone out about one sentence into any story I tell; I feel awkward when I even start to think about making gestures or changing my intonation, so I do neither–but if I had to pinpoint something it would be that I make a flowchart in my head of what to say if this and if that, and then don’t know what to do when the other person goes off (my weird unspoken) script. I got no extempo game.

  324. My biggest weakness: I have trouble moving a conversation forward. Someone will say something that I know nothing about, and then dead silent will fall on the conversation. I want to respond with something and then move the conversation toward something that we are both interested in, but I’m not sure how to do that. I’ll definitely try your tactic from the video about changing the subject and using body language to shift the conversation.

    My story: (When someone asks me what I like about the city I live in)
    I’ve been volunteering doing taxes for low income families for a few years, and it’s been the best experience I’ve had since moving to this city. I can remember exactly how good it felt when I saw one of the women on the street months after I first met her, and she remembered exactly who I was and told me that I made a huge impact in her family’s life. When I think about why I love living here, that moment puts it all in perspective.

  325. My weaknesses are based around being very direct and needing to be prepared for interaction with others.

    Being direct: I feel that other don’t want me to waste their time with what I’m telling them, so i make every sentence as though it’s my last. Or at least as though it could end right here.

    Being prepared: I feel that unless i already know something (or everything) about a person, I won’t be able to find common ground and engage them in conversation. I’ve worked a lot on this one, and find that it’s getting easier to find that common ground with less and less info.

  326. I consider myself somewhat of an anomaly. I am 32-year-old male, And I am very confident talking to most women. My issue arises when I have to Carry on a conversation with a member of my own gender. Because of this I’ve never really had many really close male friends. Now that I’m married, Spending time one-on-one with my female friends seems unacceptable. I would like to learn how to talk to my colleagues and carry on conversation where I can feel funny, confident and find someone to just hang out with.

  327. First of all, thanks for setting up this opportunity. Although the odds of me winning are slight, I feel that the process about me writing about my weaknesses and being honest with myself on where I am will propel me to learn more. Inevitably the question becomes, why am I worth the money that you worked hard to earn to send me to New York to improve my social skills?

    In my mind, your not looking for that this selected candidate will be taken from step A to step B or from step M to step N but you are looking for the guy (or girl) that can make the largest sizable improvement. If so, I am him.

    Simply put, my biggest weakness is the is the ability to continually drive the conversation in social interactions. This whole process started when my ex girl friend who I really liked decided to leave me for someone else. Although I Instead of calling her one of many four letter words that would come to most people minds, I decided to take it upon myself and ask, what did I do wrong, why did she leave me for someone else and that is when this whole self improvement process began. Sense then work that I have put is rather methodic; Google search best book for X, read the reviews on it, obtain a copy, try out the methods. If the methods worked, I kept doing them and if not, analyze if it was my methods or the methods themselves and try again.

    This has improved my life in all areas that I have focused and its been a constant learning experience (and its even how I came across you). However there is one area that I am stuck on and its how to keep conversation going with someone who I am acquainted with. I’ve noticed this with co-workers and girls that I meet that after the “staged conversation” is over and I obtain the short term results that I want, I lack the ability to drive the conversation so the individual is no longer an acuadntinace but a good friend. In my mind, this step is the hardest to overcome because there isn’t a way to script it and from what I have observed, it’s the most critical thing for the success of a boss, husband and father. All of which I aspire to be one day.

  328. My biggest weakness is the DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS! Ahhh! It usually goes something like this “Great convo opener>great questions>big laughs (haha I got em)>puzzling questions from them>i’m stumped like a goon>Now my thoughts snowball about how I am a awkward person who can’t hang>dead silence as I stare DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS! AHHH! >convo over due to awkwardness.” I’ve even just hit that point in writing this comment….

    Either way, great video! Thanks for helping!

  329. Driving to the point. I’ve been getting better at it but still…

    Two stories:

    Really liked this girl but we never really had a chance to talk, I’d say hi, or raise my chin, that sort of thing. Then, one evening, in a bar, I asked her out to a movie. Or something. I think that was the exact quote “you want to see a movie or something?” She literally said “That’s not how you do it.”

    Did get better but now, professionally not so much. Was at an event (an art opening) and I was acquainted with the artist. Artists show up late to their openings, it’s an event, they’re the center of attention etc. He shows up, his rich collectors flock around him and I muscle my way in to say hi because I’d had it. Smart.

  330. My biggest weakness here is inconsistency. For example, I am pretty confident and make acquaintances easily by nature, but then something will surprise me. …like I went to a WordPress meetup when i moved to a new town, thinking it would be good for me (and not a bar situation…) I couldn’t wait to get out first just so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone! I feel like I used up my social skills allowance in my 20′s or something. Having my story toolbox to rely on at these times will be great.

  331. Ramit,I think I’m naturally curious and sincerely interested in people but I am terrible at turning that into friendly, light conversation and genuine connection. I was raised by mid-western parents that squashed any conversation or exploration of topics that crossed into the area of that wasn’t considered appropriate which may be the root cause of my issues. Although I am not naturally bold, I am a pretty smart, fun-loving girl but I know that I step back from taking chances and come across as shy, timid and sometimes just plain unfriendly. I think it is a lot of self-consciousness and fear of making the wrong move. To conteract that I tend to get right to the facts. I don’t get to know a lot of people beyond the business at hand, and I don’t feel that people get to know me either. Then, when relationships count, even superficial ones, I lose because I don’t have many. I want to overcome this and make my way not just settle for what works in spite of it. I truly believe in peoples ability to grow, change and evolve and I want it!

  332. So here’s what: I really want this media training, because I think that the ability to discern the right social mode for delivering my message is something that’s holding me back.

    I think that my biggest challenge is trying to be cute or funny at times when it is a distraction from what needs to get done. For instance, I recently attended a live taping of one of my favorite shows. When they took questions, I made my question take too long by trying to tack a joke on the front that was meant to display how familiar I was with the program. It was show-offy and lame, and even as the words were coming out of my mouth, my superego was shrieking “STOP TALKING!!!”

    I’d like media training to give my superego a snowball’s chance of winning that fight next time. In professional circumstances, the consequences for drawing attention to yourself for inappropriate behavior are a lot more dire than at an entertainment event. Sometimes you need to be serious and straightforward, and other times jokes are exactly right… But you’ve got to be able to tell the difference! I know I can do better, and training would be a great jump-start to developing better socialndiscernment.

  333. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest weaknesses are the following:
    1. Being too accommodating to other speakers at my own expense.
    2. Being unable to command attention for a sustained period of time (especially when in larger groups)

    I am good at reading other people’s emotions and going out of my way to make them feel comfortable, but this always backfires to the point where I can barely get a word in about myself! This has always been a problem for me, even with my closest friends. They love me for being a “good listener” but I really just end up feeling drained because I’m absorbing everything and unable to contribute anything of my own.

    Recently I met up with two friends who I hadn’t seen in months and between the two of them I barely got a word in. I was FURIOUS (but I kept it bottled in, as always) and instead just tried a few tactics to see what kind of response I would get:

    1. I asked fewer questions, and let the silence run a little longer than I normally am comfortable with. My hope would be that they would take my lack of questions as cues to ask some of their own about me. I was wrong; instead they just talked more about themselves to fill the silence!
    2. I started acting like one of those obnoxious people who checks their phone, looks away from the speaker, looks for the waiter to get the check…did not work either.
    3. I tried steering the conversation away (e.g. Did you hear about so-and-so?). This worked temporarily, but then they went back to talking about themselves.

    I feel these weaknesses have held me back not only socially, but professionally as well. I am a young woman in a highly technical field and am surrounded by men. I believe my lack of confidence in social situations is keeping me on the outside of the “boys club”. I often see coworkers who are not as technically competent get preference since they are “playing the game” and spending more time building relationships. It’s hard enough to get one person to listen; it is exponentially more difficult to get a group of people to do it!

    Since I believe you are a fellow nerd, I’ve included an equation to illustrate my problem:
    Y = exp(-x)

    Where x=”number of people in the conversation”, and y=”my contribution to the conversation”. As the number of people in the group increases, my contribution to the conversation exponentially decreases! I feel myself becoming smaller and smaller until I just fade into the background.

    This has happened to me enough times for me to know that I am contributing to the problem and not doing enough to take control of my role in a conversation. I think that fundamentally people just want to be listened to, to feel relevant and interesting, which is why I am so sensitive about being a good listener. I want to take action to have this reciprocated; I don’t want to complain about how other people suck and are selfish. I want to learn ways to have more control in the conversation, to tell good stories and come across as more interesting.
    I know my social skills are holding me back socially and professionally, and that I would greatly benefit from the training!

    Thanks!

  334. Uh, I think I might, umm, say too many, uhh. extraneous words. Umm, Actually, I uhh, know I do.

    I don’t think my social skills are too bad. I do have trouble initiating small talk, but I have no problems carrying on a conversation once it has started.

    I’m the guy playing on his phone to look busy, instead of going actively meeting people.

  335. The video was great. I am speaking in front of a legal panel in a couple days and think the part about your TV appearance will be very helpful.

    As far as the story, I did just a brief moment about my mother-in-law “enjoying” ill health while meeting with a lawyer this afternoon. He laughed and offered to send his assistance to get lunch for me. I guess that is a success.

  336. Ok, my biggest social issue (besides being an introvert) is that I actually dislike the sound of my own voice. I don’t like hearing myself talk. I don’t think I’m that bad to talk to since I’ve spent the past few years in a job where I for new relationships with people often, I just dislike listening to myself and feel like other people don’t like listening to me either.

  337. Amanda Wuenschel Link to this comment

    One of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to social skills is what I lovingly refer to as “word vomit”. This happens when my brain thinks more quickly than I can talk, and I end up substituting a word or phrase that I am going to say for the word that I should say. I work register at my lovely restaurant, and this most commonly happens when I’ve been following my scripts all day, so I end up saying the entirely wrong phrase at the wrong time because I need caffeine. It always gets super awkward for at least a moment.

    Example: A happy customer has just finished their order, and I need to get the receipt signed, so I say, “I need to get an–receipt?”

    This usually causes a moment of utter confusion–eyebrows drawn, nose wrinkled–and then a little laugh.

    This has happened to me so often, that I just roll with the word vomit. Laughing, I’ll joke, “Sorry, my English doesn’t work so good some days.” Or, when I’ve messed up a word so badly it doesn’t sound like English any more, I laugh and say, “I got an English degree so I could make up my own words. That’s what that’s for, right?”

    I’ve also found that more awkwardness is a really good way to get rid of awkwardness, too, as long as it’s done very obviously. A lull in the conversation? Eyebrows raised, eyes locked, smile tight so that it looks like you’re holding back laughter, say, “So, how about the weather?” or “How ’bout them [local sports team that is in its off season]?” I only employ this when it looks as if both of us are feeling awkward, and it usually gets a chuckle and then the conversation continues on (because the weather here is ridiculous and can always be talked about. Saturday, it was 54 when I woke up for work at 5AM and 41 when I was done and 2PM),

  338. Hi Ramit,

    For my primary job, I interview professionals about their careers in healthcare almost every day. Not only has this habit spilled into my second job in retail (Hello, anyone in lab coats and scrubs!) but also into my social life. When meeting new people I tend to hang on to their work life for far too long, asking follow up question after follow up question. For people looking to unwind on the weekend, away from their 9-5, I think it’s the last thing they want to keep talking about. So, I need to stop using my “interview” persona as a crutch outside of work.

  339. I have so many I don’t know where to start!
    I never feel like I’m dressed correctly for any event, social or professional. I can ramble on and I’m pretty clueless about body language and don’t get it when people might be getting bored. I used to work for a company where we had a lot of department meetings. People didn’t like it when I would ask a question or comment. It really affected my self-esteem and I didn’t get any promotions no matter how well I did at my job. I just never felt like I fit in.
    Now I’m a full-time writer and I go to conventions to meet readers and other authors and I always feel like weird kid who watches the popular kids make friends. I’d love to be able to socialize better and have more self-confidence and know why I’m not fitting in.
    Thanks for the great tips and video. I know I’ll get a good start by using some of those suggestions.

  340. Jonathan Cohen Link to this comment

    MY biggest obstacles is not having enough volume. I was at my companies holiday party last month and I was new to the company and wanted to make a good impression. I started out engaged but as the party got louder I had a hard time being heard as well as hearing. I got bored and ended up awkwardly hanging around groups of people pretending to be social. It was awful. I also felt afraid to truly let go and be myself aroundmy new ccoworkers. I watched them let go but felt uncomfortable doing so myself. I would love to win and show everyone my truly social self.

  341. One story I like to tell about my time living in Seoul is when I went to the international district to practice my German at a weekly meetup. This area has a high rate of prostitution, which, coupled with late drunken nights and too many languages, really makes this story. So I leave the bar at 2 AM and waiting for a cab on a busy corner when this lady wearing a red leather jacket and a leopard print skirt says something to me. I ask her what she said and she says “sex? sex?”

    So I’d just been speaking German for 3 hours and responded to her by saying a shortened form of no in German (“nay”) which unfortunately sounds just like yes in Korean. I immediately realize what I said and in a panic tried to remember how to say no in Korea, I get the word and yell it and wave my arms and thankfully a cab pulls up and I jump in. This story always get a laugh, especially among Germans and Koreans.

    So here’s my challenge: I sometimes draw a blank when coming up with questions. One time I was at another bar in Seoul talking to some guys about meeting women, and one of their friends came back from the other end of the bar where he had talked to this girl. He told me she was from California and I should go over and talk to her. So I go over and say something like “Oh hey I heard from my friend over there you’re from California, what are you doing here?” First, she was texting on her phone so I should’ve left her alone. 2nd, in Seoul, it’s pretty obvious what an American girl is doing there. She’s an English teacher just like I was. Duh. So I’m feeling just how awkward it all is and just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind “So where are you from?”

    I realized right away that I already knew that and just walked away. I cannot express enough how stupid I felt.

  342. My biggest social weakness: I feel sometimes I am limited in the number of subjects I can talk about. I’ve learnt some tips to try to find leads (How do you know the host? What brought you to this city (if they are not from here), etc.). But sometimes I have a hard time finding a common thing to talk about, especially if it’s a subject outside my comfort zone.

    For instance, someone once tried to connect with me around sports (“did you watch the Olympics?”), but I shut him down by replying a flat out “no” as I almost never watch TV, let alone sports. Of course I realized that way too late.

  343. I decided to test my assumption that I’d never win this prize because I live outside the US. For the record, I’d love an excuse to visit your beautiful country and would be happy to pay for my airfare to get there if I win!

    My biggest weakness in social interactions at the moment is that I often find myself just saying whatever comes to mind to fill in the gaps in the conversation. I’m a very honest, open person and I genuinely have good intentions and nothing to hide, but this often means that what I say doesn’t get filtered through my brain on the way out of my mouth. I call a spade a spade and it somehow just doesn’t occur to me to keep my cards close to my chest. Although I think this sometimes helps me connect on a more personal level (because people feel like I’m confiding in them), it’s a real hindrance in a more professional or formal situation.

    For example, I’m in the process of closing down an existing business and starting a new one. Naturally I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what I did well and not so well in the previous business to help me avoid the same mistakes next time. People will ask me “why did you decide to pull the plug?” and rather than saying something sensible like “my priorities changed” or “I wanted to pursue this new opportunity” I’ll say “well, I really didn’t put as much effort as I should have into the marketing and the business wasn’t doing as well as I’d hoped.” It’s true, but it’s really not useful for them to know that!

    One thing I’ve tried is to plan ahead and decide on my responses to such questions. I’ve even gone so far as to create flowcharts in advance of a particular conversation to help direct it where I want it to go. This works to some degree but it’s exhausting to be constantly having to anticipate what sensitive topics might come up in conversation and what it would be acceptable to say and what I should keep to myself. It also seems a little extreme to be doing that much planning for an everyday chat, and it’d really help to be able to find the middle ground on this issue so I could just wing it casually in conversation without putting my foot in it.

    A story that I’m working on at the moment is about how I ran my first ever marathon on the Great Wall of China. It’s quite topical because of the smog problem in Beijing at the moment (no way anyone’d want to run a marathon there at the moment!) I talk about how the most exhausting and technically challenging part of the race was the top of this massively steep climb about 3/4 of the way in. The other day I looked at the course profile on Google Earth and realised that the top of that climb was both literally and figuratively the furtherest away from home I’d even been. Kind of like Sam in Lord of the Rings. That often leads to some interesting observations!

  344. Matthew Marshall Link to this comment

    What’s up Ramit!

    Great post! My biggest weakness in the social realm is definitely my fear of starting a conversation, having it go badly, and then being perceived as being socially inept. That fear then sometimes consumes my thoughts as I am in the conversation. So, not only do I think negatively, but I’m left with no good response to lead the conversation forward.

    I came to this conclusion a little before Thanksgiving and since then I’ve started a regular dinner party with friends. We all agree to bring someone no one knows (of course I got this idea from Ramit). This not only gives me more opportunities to improve my social skills, but also increases the network of myself and my friends. An additionally benefit to the dinner party is the social value I receive by being the host. As you have said many times, just by being the connector people will value you more and want to connect with you more.

    Much thanks to you, Ramit!

    Here’s my tool box story:
    In middle school, 6th grade, I was in an art class and we were assigned a project to create an animal out of clay. So, I was like awesome! I’m going to make a really cool snake. So, I started and when I was about half way I noticed that my snake wasn’t really curved like a normal snake, so I decided to change it into a large earthworm. The art teacher fired all our clay pieces and we took them home. I was ecstatic to show my parents what I had made. Of course, my mom was super supportive. A couple years later I found that earthworm and it turned out that it looked nothing like an earthworm. Instead it looked more like a really large dildo. HAHAHA! I had no idea when I made it. I wish I could have known what my parents were thinking when I initially showed them my “earth worm”.

  345. Serendipitously today provided the perfect example for this comment. I happened to run into an old acquaintance outside of the university’s cafeteria. We each had a few spare minutes before our next classes so of course usual conversation ensued, “hey how ya been?” “how are classes this semester?” etc, etc. Seemed to be a normal small talky conversation…

    But then he said something, and right now I don’t quite recall what it was, but it was clearly something he wanted some commiseration over, and I jumped in with an, “Oh yeeeaaaah.” My voice got real big, I gave him an eyeroll, think I even leaned back a bit as if to say, “of course.” and immediately this… look… came over his face. It was a mixture of confusion (eyebrows raised), a little incredulity (did he just give me THAT response?), and distance (okay that was a little weird, I feel uncomfortable now).

    My friend seemed for a split second, off track, flustered, as if he just had to reconcile some very new, somewhat confusing information. It wasn’t quite a fumble of the conversational ball, but it was the very least a juggle. And that one little moment contains my greatest conversational weakness.

    I’m not sure where it comes from but I have the terrible habit of over-responding. It happens all the time where I respond with the right tone, but either too much or too little. Unfortunately this weakness has been a recent revelation for me.

    Prototypical route this takes is my friend says something and I jump to agree or commiserate and from the friend’s response it is clear that I gave too much of a response and the alarms of insincerity are going off in my friend’s head. Sometimes I jump in when my friend was expecting NO RESPONSE… and it ends up completely derailing the conversation.

    The absolute worst is when I’m on a hot date. If it’s a girl I really want to impress suddenly every joke is just too funny, every story enraptures me, and I completely… I mean completely know what she’s going through. I’m sure if you be a fly on the wall watching me on some of these dates you’d be creeped out just watching. I probably look like a slobbering dope who’ll do anything and say anything to get her to like me… which inevitably does EXACTLY the opposite. Less backbone than a jellyfish…

    It comes down to trying too hard or in some cases not listening closely enough. Just awkwardly parroting back emotions with the wrong intensity. Please if another IWT reader, Ramit, or anyone could help I would be so grateful… Because I have a hot date in two days!!!

    • As a girl, I hate to say this, but read some PUA technqiues of body-contact. I absolutely hate guys invading my space, but I know this works well for most guys.

      I think you try too hard maybe. Maybe focus on what she’s saying, instead of what she thinks of you? The latter probably leads to you over-reacting.

  346. I get excited when talking to people about photography and models.

    I’m a professional photographer, so that’s okay at work. But sometimes I have trouble transitioning to the regular world. Once I knocked over a drink in a bar because I was so excited talking about Heather Locklear. And I’ve never even worked with her!

    Finding that transition from work related passion in conversation to the real world can be tricky. That and sometimes I (stupidly) bring up politics in conversations. I really need to work on that!

  347. I have a good story about getting my braces caught in a carpet when I was in 7th grade and having my mom cut me loose with scissors that usually does pretty well in social settings. I’ve found that talking about a time when I was an idiot (but not being self-conscious about it) generally works well to get people to open up about themselves.

    I told the story to a cashier at a Banana Republic while returning a purple sweater my sister got me and she laughed out loud. It was pretty cool actually, that was my first time telling the story in a non-social environment (it was literally just the cashier and me in the store) and kinda cool that it got a laugh. A pretty decent confidence booster actually!

  348. Some may think that you have to have a “social life” in order to have social skills or weaknesses, but what they don’t realize is that if they interact at all with another person at any time during their day, they’re using their social skills.

    I’m the oldest of four children in my family; I don’t know if my parents realized it, but I was also raised to be the second mother to my three siblings. Before I hit puberty, I had a Mom “voice” and a Mom “look.” Of course, I never used either of those tools on my friends, which means I have a different set of voices.

    My junior year in high school I started working at the local fast food in order to pay for all of my personal expenses, including food. No one in my family talked about finances, we just knew that we didn’t have money for certain things, we were never told the why or the how.

    When I first started working, I was shy. I did what I was trained to, my voice was quiet, I spent a lot of time cleaning rather than talking with my coworkers. I’ve been promoted since then, I now train new hires and run the store on my shifts. I’ve somehow acquired a Work “voice.”

    I probably have a few more voices, a few more ways of dealing with different social situations. My weakness? Sometimes I’m not certain which set to use when, or when my current voice isn’t necessarily appropriate for the current conversation or social setting.

  349. My biggest social skills problems are twofold: consistency & dead synapse syndrome.

    I know that I can be funny and engaging, and even charismatic. Just not consistently. Sometimes I’m on and sometimes I am so NOT.

    Worse than being off my game is when I am suddenly overcome with dead synapse syndrome.

    This is when I have not only have run out of small talk, but I can’t even get a synapse to *misfire*. Complete brain freeze, and I don’t mean the ice cream variety. I will be mid-small talk and run out of things to say and my mind will go completely blank. Freakishly blank.

    Hell, the Dalai Lama would admire my mad zen skills of mind clearing, were it not for the fact that I’m mid conversation.

    This may be what I get for eating lead paint as a kid, but it’s definitely something that needs to be overcome. Insurance wouldn’t cover electroshock therapy, so here I am.

  350. Oh P.S. I wanted to use a video in my comment and completely forgot to put it in there! Anyways the clip from 2:50 to 3:00 should give you some idea of my predicament. (With the translator in the clip playing the part of my brain)

  351. Hey Ramit,
    Thanks for the video. In my view, it was effective because it was relevant for people on many different points on the social-skill continuum.

    Here’s a representative example of my biggest social weakness: getting dominated in a conversation that counts.

    –snip–

    I’m 21, meeting a prospective tenant for my first rental property who had responded to an ad in the paper (yeah, it was a while ago). We get a little way into talking about the property and I slowly started realizing that this guy is actually a real estate investor who wants to do some kind of crazy wrap-mortgage thing using my property.

    Without going into too much detail, the deal he proposes is not very good for me. The investor isn’t aggressive, but he knows what he wants, I am caught off guard and he is rolling over me. I find myself agreeing to this deal, even though I have a bad feeling in my gut about it!

    The investor is in control, and he does a great job of selling this crap-sandwich deal to me. And here’s the thing: I know I don’t want to do it, but I sign anyway. I just don’t know how to say no, even when it is in my own best interest to do so.

    –snip–

  352. Chris B. Behrens Link to this comment

    I’ve done a number of technical speaking gigs, and I’ve actually had the benefit of some very frank feedback. Some of the speaker forms said that I was kind of professorial and condescending – which is easy to do suppose, from a techie point of view, where you’re trying to educate people. I’ve worked to adopt a more humble presentation, but I always keep this in mind.

    From a more social perspective, I think I have trouble with “second gear”. I have no trouble getting a conversation started, but, just like in the demo, conversations tend to die on the vine. I’ve got a number of good stories I’ve told over the years, but I’m also sensitive about not coming across like a blowhard just talking about how great he is. I’ve actually developed this into a strategy – “pardon me for a moment and talk about how awesome I am”, and with the right body language and eye contact, that works pretty well. It highlights that I’m being a little self-deprecating but that I do think I have something interesting to say. But I would really love to have that torn down and analyzed, and get some frank feedback to know whether it REALLY works, or whether people are simply being polite.

    I’ve got a formal event with a bunch of company spouses and girlfriends coming up, so I’ll test some stuff out there. My son will be there, so I’ll have a built-in out – “well, I’d better go check on how Caleb is doing…it’s been a pleasure talking with you”.

    Thanks again for the terrific video – I would love to see more like this.

  353. My biggest challenge is overcoming the feeling that I have no commonality with other people, which in turn makes me un easy in social situations. I was born and raised outside of the United States and currently live and work in the South in manufacturing plants. I cant seem to find commonality without faking it, I dont feel like I belong in the “club” of golf, hunting, fishing and boating. The odd thing is I really do want to connect with people on a friendly level and my profession depends on it. What I am doing right now to help is trying my best to speak actively with random people and show interest in others, even if I dont really feel all that interested. I am also thinking about joining toastmasters, and of course reading and watching this blog.

  354. I shared a story with my wife. The story is about my friend going through an interview for an ibanking role in Asia. Everything went quite smoothly until near the end. With 10 minutes left, the interviewer requested to switch to converse in Mandarin. Poor my friend, he was bilingual, but Mandarin just happen to be the third language he’s picking up.
    This story turned out to be more engaging than I thought could be. My wife was initially facing away from me and was working on some Photoshop design while I talked. When I mentioned the interviewer requested to switch language, she laughed. Then she turned away from her work, faced me, and leaned toward me. I think that’s a clear signal that she is engaged and wanted to hear how the interview ended. I wish I could record a video of this to study more specifically which part of the story was interesting and generated a positive reaction. I am going to test this story with other people to observe how I tell the story and how other people react.

  355. My biggest challenge is being shy. I HATE the label and never use the word to describe myself to others, but when I am placed in a crowd of people I don’t know, I inevitably shrink. I sit (or stand) alone, my voice gets softer, people cannot hear me, I find myself with nothing to say and I sweat! I am a salesperson, so I make a living off of using a script to get people to like me quickly (and then BUY things from me), but I know there is much room to improve these skills professionally and to apply them socially. I grew up believing I was ugly and that no one would want to be seen talking to me and although I’ve overcome these beliefs over the years, I have not figured out how to change the social habits that accompanied them. I have no problem opening up to people I know and it frustrates my friends that the me they know disappears when they take me out around their other friends. I have even had people stop inviting me to go places with them and telling me it was because I do not know how to interact with other people. Help!

  356. Hey Ramit,

    At the moment, the weakness I’m working on is keeping a conversation going. I’ve always been an observer rather than a participant and social interaction with strangers is awkward for me. I’m getting better and I can reach out initially to almost anyone now. But once a conversation has started with someone new I can handily kill it in a number of ways. I was talking at a party a while back with a woman who asked what I do. She was making small talk and I took the question to heart and gave her a lengthy detailed answer. Once I was done, she said “oh, well I don’t find that very interesting” and walked off. (This has become one of my stories, in certain situations.) There have been instances when I wasn’t able to find a good follow up response and the conversation died. In other instances I got tedious in my responses. I’ve attempted to be witty and had that fail miserably. My biggest failures have occurred when I’m trying too hard, and I come off as phony and insincere. I’ve also had experiences that turned out quite well and resulted in an engaging conversation, but often because the other person was socially adept. I’m currently experimenting with two things. One is the assumption that I’m not that interesting so I shouldn’t talk about myself. The other is a tendency I’ve recently noticed to default to gossip to keep a conversation going, which after the fact makes me uncomfortable.

  357. My geographic location is often enough to get people at least somewhat curious about the life I’ve lived here in Alaska. The wilderness, the open spaces, the wildlife and so on, as well as experiences that are unique to this location.

    The easiest stories to tell are those that involve things most people would never experience, such as my working as a commercial fisherman. It was equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, with many incredible experiences in between.

    I brought up the topic of fishing when I engaged a girl at my building’s coffee shop/cafe and we bantered about work. I know I’m an introvert, so my behavior is more often to sit back and just provide prompts to people to allow them to continue to talk about themselves. In this case, I shifted the conversation from what I was currently doing for work, to the myriad of jobs I’ve done growing up here, settling on the commercial fishing. I told two different stories, one of fighting through 16-foot swells to reach an isolated cove (I was almost pitched overboard) to escape the storm. The second was an event I witnessed where a killer whale had become trapped in a fishing net. The rescue of the whale from the other fishermen in the area was nothing short of miraculous to watch. I then managed to include the fact that my name means “Killer Whale” in Tlingit (Alaska Native tribe, of which I am a proud member).

    It felt like cheating, a bit, considering how unique fishing is, and especially how unique those particular situations were, but the girl I was talking to remained engaged the entire time, even asking questions and acting somewhat astonished some guy in stuffy business attire could have experienced such a thing.

    I’ve no doubt she’ll remember me when I come in for my morning coffee, though.

    If it hadn’t been for this challenge, I may never have brought it up, or engaged with this person I see every day, but never really talk to.

  358. Hi Ramit,
    For me the biggest challenge of the conversation is knowing how to filter what
    I want to say to someone so that it stays engaging and I don’t end up losing them in unnecessary details. Starting the conversation is not a big deal. Ending could use a bit of tunning up, but the core issue for me is in keeping the conversation engaging.
    I find that I do better in writting where I can read and filter what I’m saying before I hit the send button. Somehow I have missed learning the social culture cues to keeping a conversation engaging . As a child my mother was my interpreter when playing with the kids in my neighborhood and hence I was shortchanged alot of the natural learning process children go through. She was, and still is, a very dictatorial person and will disregard anything I have to say no matter how valuable it may be. I don’t say this as an excuse but rather to identify a blind spot I have socialy. I also seem to have to validate eveything…an inferiority complex of some sort? Anyway, you asked for details and these are mine. I am willing to learn. Constructive suggestions are always welcome.

  359. Hey Ramit, I think you’ll love this case study in thin slicing (below)

    **

    I recently returned from a conference in Las Vegas (New Media Expo). I have a funny and enlightening story from that event to share

    After attending several conferences like this (in many countries), I notice a pattern — you can tell ALMOST INSTANTLY whether the person you are talking to “gets it” or not. It’s uncanny.

    On the second afternoon, I was sitting and waiting for the keynote to begin. As usual I’m sitting near the center aisle, but not in the very last chair ON THE AISLE. The reason I usually choose a seat like this is because it’s very likely that someone will sit next to me — and it’s an easy conversation opportunity.

    A somewhat scruffy guys rolls up and asks in a very low voice (while avoiding eye contact) whether the seat next to me is taken. I truthfully answer “No,” but inside I’m thinking “I WISH IT WAS.”

    But I don’t judge every book by their cover, so I ask what brings him to Vegas — he says “Oh, my partner and I are designing a social network platform. It will be similar to Facebook. We’re here to learn how social, content, and blogging work.”

    So at this point I facepalm and groan (silently of course). Already you can tell this guy doesn’t “get it”, but a couple followup questions confirm his social and business miscalibration, so I shut down that conversation as quickly as possible and pray for him to leave — which he does.

    Another person strolls up and seems puzzled that such a great seat (center, up near the stage but not too close) is open and asks if SHE can sit down. She’s got an aura to her and asks confidently and with vulnerability — instantly I’m happy that someone normal is sitting next to me.

    In a future post it’d be great to hear yoru thoughts on “thin slicing” a situation similar to what I just described. I mean that moment right when you meet someone — how do you quickly tell who’s going to be boring and who’ll be intriguing?

    **

    Here’s my social problem bottleneck: It’s not small talk and it’s not keeping a conversation going — it’s actually getting into THE RIGHT conversations.

    Also at NMX I noticed that some people can just get in there and engage people (like speakers or influencers) LIKE THAT while I’m still in a conversation with a wannabe. I realized there’s a paradox — if someone comes up and talks to you at a conference, it’s almost certain they’re not worth talking to — because they’d already have an idea of who they want to meet at the conference. Unless you’re an influencer (or they’re doing a Ramit style ‘testing’ session, it’s probably not you.

    My question — How do you research for events or conferences and how do you tackle the problem of being interesting and memorable to in demand ‘influencers’?

    And if you’re sitting at the “awkward” part of the table (I’ve noticed it tends to be one end of the table, not the middle) how can you gracefully switch seats?

    Thanks for doing this post BTW

  360. My biggest biggest weakness when it comes to social skills? Oh, man, that one is really apparent. In my job, I interact with a lot of nerdy teenagers; inside the classroom, and when I’m running a specific, planned extracurricular activity, we’ve all got a pre-fab social script that we rely on. But the goddamn hardest thing for me to do is to sit with the kids at lunch and just chat with them. I never know what the hell to say! What I *want* to do is find out who they (really) are, check in about how their experience at our program has been, learn what life is like for them back home. What I end up asking is crap like “So, what books did you read in English class this year?” YAWN. And they’re nerdy teenagers, so they’re not helping the conversation to flow naturally — we often come to awkward pauses where I have to invent a new line of inquiry.

    I suspect that your advice about using body language (leaning in, lowering your voice) and saying “Hey, let me ask you a question” and then engaging the other person in some sort of a shared “Did you see that thing? Yeah, totally crazy, right? No idea what was up with that.” would be a good move for me. And having a few practiced, polished stories in my back pocket would be fantastic. I’m going to work on both, and see how it goes — maybe at this year’s program, I’ll look like a natural at the lunch table!

  361. I often like to tell people the story about how I was living in France and learnkn the language. As I faltered with the language I one day tried to use a cognate for preservatives (like in food). Infortunately, preservatif en francais is condom. It was embarassing but always puts people at ease when it comes to talking about travel.

  362. I can think of two of my biggest weaknesses for social situations.

    No. 1: I feel very awkward initiating contact with someone. If someone initiates contact with me I consider myself OK. One of my very few friends where I initiated contact with them was probably the best friend anyone could ever know. I did it, because I had a good opener of when she presented in the class I was in and asked her about that. But even after that, I still very self-conscious about what to say, how to act, and where to lead the conversation when I want to talk to other people.

    Now, once someone has talked to me and we got a conversation going, there’s another weakness:

    No. 2: I tend to go on and on and on with various topics. Especially when I’m telling a story, I feel l like I’m constantly going back and forth within the story to fill-in-the-blanks, so to speak. For example: When talking to my friend I brought up a story of the new laptop I got recently. I was going between the story of how my old laptop died on me. what cool new features were on my new laptop, and so on and so forth. I put in all kinds of unnecessary details, now that I think about it.

  363. Whats up Ramit,
    I believe my biggest social weakness is approaching/engaging new people in a conversation. Its like I hit a wall, I get too shy or reserved. This even happens to me at work I find myself to be just listening into other coworkers convos when we are in a social setting.

    My story which I used on my roommate today which is probably the opposite of engaging ties directly into my weakness. The story bombed because she basically pitied me and said it was alil pathetic at the same time haha. She works in the music industry so its her business to be social.

    Here we go:

    You selected me to attend the IWT/AppSumo Meetup at Pranna(NYC) back in July 2012. I was pretty excited to meet other IWT suscribers and of course the Big dog yourself. When I showed up, there were already several dozen people there. I started to get nervous and sweat a bit. I decided to go directly to the bar and get drink hoping it would loosen me up. To make a long story short I downed my drink in the bathroom and left within 20 mins of showing up without talking to a single person at the event unless the bartender counts.

    I did get to see you making your rounds engaging different folks and snapping on them lol. This made me even more nervous. In the end I didnt want to look like the lonely creepy guy there so I left.

    In retrospect I should have stayed for the free drinks.

    Willie

  364. Hi, Ramit. I think I suffer from the perfect storm of social weaknesses – introverted observer by nature; talker’s block (mind goes blank and don’t know what to say); overly passive in conversations and in action; and, when I do get talking, I’m either a bit too academic/monotone or a bit too sarcastic for many people’s tastes. I’ve been this way my entire life and it has severely hindered me in many situations. Moreover, I’m in graduate school and on my way to becoming a literature professor (and/or open my own writing school/tutoring program for high school kids). I’ve taught before and don’t seem to have a problem speaking when I’m the “expert” in the room (although I do tend to speak a little fast sometimes). But I’ve had many people comment on how they would never have expected me to be in this field, since I don’t talk much. For years, I subscribed to the “this-is-who-I-am-so-people-should-accept-me” school of thought, but obviously that does not work and I know that I need to improve myself.

    A little more about the perfect storm…I listed both “passive observer” and “overly passive” as two things. One of them is physical. If I’m at a bar or sitting at a table (even in graduate seminars), I will pull my chair slightly behind the line of other chairs, so that the other participants are physically in front of me. It allows me to stay in the role of observer (which, I suppose, is somewhat natural for an academic/writer). The other is verbal. I have a great deal of trouble controlling the conversation and always follow the other person’s lead. The other major problem is “talker’s block,” where my mind goes blank and I don’t know what to say, whether it’s making small talk or thinking of my own stories. It’s like being in a video store (not that there are any left these days) with all of the choices in front of me and I can’t think of what movie I want to watch. I’m usually OK with the interview-type questions that people go through in the beginning of a conversation. Pushing it further and taking it to the next level is the hard part (i.e. starting/maintaining any kind of meaningful conversation). Part of this is that many of the interesting things that have happened to me happened while living overseas in weird places. These are clearly important experiences in my life. But people usually think it’s interesting for a few minutes and then lose interest because these are often not common experiences with which they can relate. This has happened countless times, which has caused me to downplay my stories.

    I think the biggest problem is having my mind go blank and not knowing what to say, even when others take the initiative. For example, I’m from NYC (but moved away for graduate school), so one day I was on the subway heading to a friend’s party. I was sick as a dog. I usually stand on the subway, but this time I took a seat because I felt like crap. Anyway, a cute woman got on and happened to sit next to me. I glanced at her a few times. She heard me coughing and offered me a cough drop. This was perfect, right?! I didn’t have to do anything. But, I said, “No, thanks.” (I still can’t believe I did that.) She got off at the following stop.

    Anyway, I can imagine what that story must sound like, but I’m putting it out there (and there are others like it). And if I do manage to catch myself and try to avoid this, I usually overshoot and end up coming off too sarcastic. You obviously don’t know me, but I’m not a bad-looking guy, I’m smart, I’ve had some great experiences (lived and traveled a great deal overseas, taught in some challenging schools in NY, currently in an Ivy League Ph.D. program, etc.)…but my lack of social skills have hindered me my entire life and I know that I need to improve them (for both social and professional reasons).

  365. Hi there I stumbled upon you site randomly today in a very crazy way – was downloading free kindle books on blogging as everyone says i should write one and your blog was linked in.
    I very much enjoyed your writing style, video and am interested in contest.
    I’m probably not your usual person that would say that doesn’t have social skills but am trying to work out some bugs.
    My biggest thing is that I grew up being very shy and then need to speak in front of people now more and more about my job which people find very interesting because it’s different. Growing up I hated public speakng and speech class and almost didnt graduate college because i would go to speech class.
    Now i basically came up with a ‘template’ or script that I repeat when inevitably asked the same questions which is safe but boring..at least to me. Then I find myself switching off and going into almost a robotic narration/explanation of things which makes me sound bored,jaded etc. Maybe not to them but certainly to me. Want to find a way to bring back the excitement and inspiration that my story can bring to someone and also get away from me thinking ‘here we go again’ – so its a much more fulfilling exchange.

  366. My biggest weakness is “bridging the gap” between starting a conversation with a random stranger and turning that into some kind of connection.

    My social skills are pretty good when it comes to interacting with people I already know. The problem I have is in making new connections. I’ll talk to strangers, but struggle with taking the next step to build the relationship.

    About four months ago, I realized that this was one of the biggest barriers I had in regard to my social skills, so I started testing different tactics to “bridge the gap”. One particular approach I tested was to find a common interest and use that to segue into hanging out at some point in the future. For me, that common interest was usually surfing.

    I know a lot of people like to offer to get drinks or go to some bar/club. I’ve never liked meeting up with someone to hang out in those kinds of environments, especially when I’m just getting to know them. The setting is too loud and you have to scream at each other to have a conversation, so the communication is usually pretty poor.

    On the other hand, surfing with someone is an awesome way to get to know them. You have several hours to hang out one-on-one in a relaxed setting. Plus the conversation is interrupted when someone catches a wave, which is actually a good thing. It drops the pressure of having awkward silences and gives you a chance to take a break and reassess the conversation.

    The specific scripts I tested are below. Even though they’re specific to surfing, they can really be applied to asking someone to do anything.

    TERRIBLE
    “Let’s go surfing sometime.”

    This script failed because it was too vague. Most of the time people would agree, but would never follow through. By being vague, I was making the other person take control and be proactive about finding a time to go. Most of the time, I wouldn’t hear from them again.

    BETTER
    “Let’s go surfing this weekend.”

    This script had a better success rate because I was showing that I really did want to hang out with the person, and was suggesting a specific time to do so. The problem here was that I sometimes came off as creepy. If I’m inviting a person I just met, they’re thinking they’re going to be stuck on an awkward man date with some guy they barely know. Unless I’ve built rapport with them, they’ll probably say no. Of course, they won’t say all of this, they’ll just make an excuse about why they can’t go (“The invisible cost of average social skills”).

    BEST
    “I’m going surfing this weekend at XYZ Beach in the morning with a buddy. Want to join?”

    This script was by far the most successful because of how it framed the invitation. It was effective because:

    1. I’m specifically planning the meeting. They aren’t making a vague commitment sometime in the future that will never happen. In copywriting terms, I’m giving them a clear call to action that is easy to follow.

    2. I’m telling them that I already have plans and I will go with or without them. This way it doesn’t feel like my plan hinges on them saying yes, and that I’m asking them to do me a favor. Instead, I’m taking the pressure off by saying, “Hey – I’m already doing this. If you want to join, let me know.”

    3. I’m saying there will be other people there. They won’t get stuck hanging out with someone they barely know, plus I’m giving them the opportunity to meet someone new. I’m also subtly displaying social proof by saying that I will be bringing other people, making it seem less likely that I’m some weirdo with no friends.

    Anyway, that’s just one thing I’ve been doing to systematically work on my social skills. Hopefully someone here will find it useful.

    Thanks for the awesome post Ramit.

  367. Ramit,

    Many people lack self confidence in conversations, but i doubt many people experience getting mutinied in topics they bring up like I do. You see I am a very passionate person, and I love putting time and effort into the things that I do, but the real problem lies in the showcasing of what ever project or just general conversation.

    Usually the conversation will start out great, me and the stranger will exchange salutations, but things go south quickly, especially in the context of the opposite sex. I quickly begin to clamor, and lose whatever confidence I had entering in the conversation. I then resort to becoming this weird jester joker guy that people begin to not take serious. Because of my lack of ability to at least portray confidence in conversations, I’ve become known as the creepy old guy from Family Guy, and I am only 22 (Yikes!). Ramit if you can’t help me, I am screwed…

  368. Hello again,
    This is my second comment because I have tested 3 stories on two friends and one stranger last night: 2 out of the 3 worked well! But after the laughs or the reactions, I noticed that people weren’t willing to spend more time discussing on those subjects and the stories only last 2 minutes. So even if 2 worked, maybe they are still not good because they didn’t lead to discussion, right?
    Have a nice day!
    Natcha

  369. My biggest social weakness is that I’m afraid to ask questions–afraid that I’ll look stupid if I do. I became aware of this several years ago, so have been training myself to ask more questions when I meet someone. It’s still a conscious decision, though, not something that comes naturally.

    I will work on a story to tell people at work and report back.

  370. Hi Ramit, thanks for the hacks and great content.

    I wanted to comment on a social skills weakness that I have at the office. I am a busy professional and I noticed that at various times when I’m stressed or mentally exhausted or moving too quickly in an effort to knock out multiple projects, I may lose my ability to stay animated, to keep command of intonation and my talking speed when dealing with others… My weakness is I go ‘flat’.

    I’ve noticed, on a few occasions, I might regress to a monotone in discussions with colleagues or staff or I might rush through providing feedback or giving instructions. Intuitively, I will myself to pick-up my energy level and ‘perform’ at meetings with (paying) clients and senior colleagues but I noticed that on other occasions I failed to show interest or pay real attention to paraprofessional staff (even though they can make my job easier/harder and play a significant role in whether I look during and/or at the end of a project).

    Since I started reading IWTYTBR, I’ve tried to test taking different approaches for these interactions with paraprofessional or administrative staffers. Before, I might plow straight ahead and direct a staff person to draft a document or input changes to or finish a revising a letter and I would rush through the instructions and not wait or stop to see if the message was delivered or received. I was brusque and the quality of the communication sometimes suffered. Often times, the resulting work product I would get back to review would not be inspired and I then spent time being frustrated with the mediocre quality I would have to ‘fix’ and I would also waste time and energy complaining about or being annoyed at the whole situation.

    I’ve since come to realize that every exchange with staff can be improved in the next experience. When that happens, it seems the work product is improved, as well. I now take and make the time to be interested in the person with whom I’m dealing and also take the time to create a positive exchange or interaction and to engage in what you’ve referred in the video as the ‘ritual’ of small talk before i start discussing the work assignment.

    I try to make it a point to ask about my assistant’s weekends (on Mondays) or recent developments with their hobbies (on Thursdays or Fridays). I’ve found that when I’m genuinely interested in those who are working with me that to a large extent, the entire interaction is more interesting, more satisfying and (wow!) enjoyable.

  371. Wow, a lot of great stories here!

    Thanks Ramit for talking about social skills. I think people who read your blog are often successful to an extent that they don’t really need to worry about making more money per se (knock wood) but there are other ways to make life “rich” eg by improving your social network; even when you don’t need a “network” for money purposes, you need one for other reasons. I look forward to reading more on your blog about social skills, productivity and time management.

    One of my biggest problems socially is actually seguing from “hey I see you at place X sometimes” casual conversation to “hey let’s grab coffee sometime.” But reading the comment of the surfer-dude Taylor (405) (who btw sounds hot, guys who surf usually are ;) ), I realize I should use his trick of “Hey I’m meeting some friends for coffee on the 29th at 10am, do you wanna join us?”

    Fingers crossed it works :)

  372. Biggest weakness: sticking too closely with people I know. In big group settings, I tend to only socialize or interact with the people I know directly–and rely on them to help me make new contacts.
    Once I get going, I can actually carry a conversation, tell a good story, make someone laugh–but, when I’m asked to go to mixers for work, fear keeps me close to who I know.

    I am often 20-30 years younger than the people I am trying to engage–so the opening lines I have tried experimenting with, either serious or jokey (mostly revolving around what they are throwing away these days–long story, job-related) fall flat because I believe I appear awkwardly young to them.

    The real secret to success is going to be showing up to networking events and forcing myself to make it happen–just one conversation all alone with someone I don’t know. Then one more.

    If I had a social skills class, though, I could attack that event with confidence–because strangers are just dying to hear about how I pooped my pants while pitching a baseball game and made it off the field, bathed, changed and made it back without anyone noticing…right?

  373. I think it’s also worth noting that a very simple technique for amplifying your key points, just as in music, is to pause or slow down right before or during your big ideas. This rhythmic change up helps to punctuate and cue your listener into the hierarchy of your messaging. Ramit, you do this naturally as do most politicians but for someone who hasn’t yet felt the emphasis it can bring to your conversations, it really is pretty profound as to how simple yet effective this tactic can be.

    For example, just think about how this principle functions within music. Right before the bass DROPPPPS (and for the older viewers out there, that’s when the beepity boops stop for a second and then all come back louder) there’s usually a moment or 2 of silence or at least a definite space in the mix all in a sort of anticipatory wind up motion that ultimately releases its energy back into the following “downbeat” or point of the presentation.

    Listen to your favorite song and I’ll bet there’s a section where they use this technique and I’ll just bet it’s one of your favorite parts. Simply remember, just like your buddies Chris Walken impression, used tastefully, it never gets old.

    So try it out next time you’re talking to someone and then sometime after see what exactly they remember about your conversation, chances are it’l be those points.

    Sean

  374. My biggest social skill problem is that I don’t know what to say sometimes. Other times, I get so nervous that words just spit out of my mouth without going through the brain filter. I would say the wrong word, or use the wrong grammar and end up looking dumber than I am. And that would make me want to clam up even more to avoid future embarrassment. It’s really hard to make new friends that way.

  375. TheRealRealist Link to this comment

    Hey Ramit, I can’t thank you enough for this video. I’m so excited to try out all of the tips you’ve provided in the next mingling activity I’m thrown into.

    I think that my biggest issue with being in a social setting is I have a deep-seated notion in my head that other people would be so bothered if I tried talking to them. I think it might be a self confidence issue; however, the thing that I don’t understand is that I’m actually quite happy with myself (not depressed or anything) and I’m great at personal communication once a conversation gets started, whether it be one-on-one or presenting myself to a large audience. I just have a big problem opening myself up to other people; I keep getting this feeling that they don’t care about any of my accomplishments or what I have to say. I’m also quick to end conversations in this way too, because I run out of things that I think the other person would care about before I get a chance to really get to know them. I’m always looking for ways to improve this since I’m usually one of those guys who pulls his phone out a lot at parties. Thanks again and I wish you all the best!

  376. Hi Ramit
    I believe my most terrible weakness when it comes to social skills, is that at times, it seems my thoughts become perfectly visible to everyone and anyone that I’m talking to. People have told me this, some people actually say it’s a good thing, since they trust that they’ll always be able to know if I’m not saying what is really on my mind. However I feel this has been a great great disadvantage for me at times. I’m sure people that I’ve worked with, could tell I very much disliked them, worse even my clients! I know it’s my body language, and my verbal language. Many people have told me that they were insecure about approaching me because I didn’t look like a social person, however they’ve told me this once they “discovered” that I was actually nice, and fun. I believe these same people could see that I was uncomfortable, however they’ve interpretated that I disliked being around them, when actually I just really wanted to be accepted into their group.
    But what really disturbs me about this is how this has affected my personal relationships, specifically my love relationship. It seems my boyfriend could tell, from my tone I was uncomfortable about something. However, this problem that affected me that day (and there were many of these days), which was clear to him because of my behaviour, at times, it has taken me hours of deep looking to realize that, I was angry or offended by something… and on that day when my boyfriend tried talking to me about it, I was unable to understand why I had been aggressive or indifferent about something. I’ve felt many times, very depressed about how the way I act sometimes, has driven this very loved person, away from me. Because I actually feel that, I’m out of control, I geniuenly can’t control how people perceive me, and how they can tell how something affects me, sometimes even before I can…
    So, yeah, I would say this is my weakness, and a very stressing point for me, as I want to keep growing into a wonderful saleswoman, pilates/yoga teacher, and loving partner. :)

  377. Alright Ramit, I’ve had are really busy day outside the house and wasn’t able to stop and do this until now.

    I actually keep a notebook of my social encounters (I actually titled it “Shedding Light to My Social Life” with an oath I signed and everything…). Before an event, I write down something that I want to test and when I come back I assess it, keeping the record in the journal. I hope you appreciate that systematic assessment.

    My biggest weakness when it comes to social skill is knowing how to lighten the mood when I want to. This ties in with another weakness of mine: keeping a conversation going.

    The Problem: I believe I can spark a conversation with strangers and keep it going well. We’ll both contribute so that one person isn’t talking too much. But my conversations lack humor and light-heartedness. With certain people, my humor is easy and natural. However, with new people or people I’ve know that I haven’t been humorous with before, the conversation gets a bit tired.

    What I’ve noticed: At birthday dinner party, one of my friends I’m very comfortable was with me. With her in my company, it was easy to converse with everyone we were sitting next to and joke around. She boosted by confidence because I felt natural with her, which extended to everyone I was with. I tried to figure out what was triggering my easygoing + humorous nature. I noticed my shoulders (and my muscles) were relaxed, the slight sinking in my stomach wasn’t there, and I wasn’t thinking for what to say next.

    What I’ve tried so far: I wanted to duplicate this behavior because I like how I act/feel in the above scenario. I’ve tried to pretend my friend was with me on another occasion, but it didn’t trigger the behavior. I’ve systematically improved my conversation skills and I’m learning how to add a joke here or there. But it’s not the same how controlled I felt before. I want to behave that naturally with everyone. I just don’t know how to break that psychological barrier. Been trying to experiment with this for a while.

    Studying others: You mentioned many times before to find your most socially adept friend and study their behavior, even ask why they do things. It’s really convenient that my brother is that for me. He’s wicked good and creates instant rapport within seconds. Everyone remembers him. I’ve asked him how he does it, he says he doesn’t know (just like you said he would). There are a few lines he uses to ease situations that I’ve been trying to implement.

    Thanks Ramit. Slow and steady, right? It takes months. And this is a lot of good competition for that social skills training prize. :)

  378. In social situations, I have a tendency to try to ‘stretch’ a story beyond its application to the situation. There might be conversation about cars, and before I check my self, I’ve launched into a story of kiddie pedal cars from my childhood. Totally off the thread of the conversation. Usually, it comes from either not paying attention closely enough, or, from letting my anxiety prevail, and speaking from my feelings about the situation, instead of the actual situation I am in. One saving tactic I have actually used is to end the story by acknowledging it was a stretch, and maybe off topic, but finding some nugget that was back to the original topic and restating it. Sort of tying the story back to the conversation. Not usually the best way to do it, but if I screw my head back in soon enough, before the story is over, i can recover..

    Got a LOT out of this topic.

  379. Very useful information, Ramit! My weakness? I tend to be shy and insecure.
    I look forward to learning about your media training sources as this project evolves.

  380. My biggest weakness is that I don’t know how to end conversations without being awkward and even bigger than that I don’t know how to events and because of that am usually among the last people to leave even hours after I’ve thought “okay, I’ve spent all my social energy. I’m ready to go.” I like the methods you’ve pointed out above, especially the blunt one. I usually find myself looking for an excuse to leave the conversation, but end up with nothing. In particular I go to my local dog park fairly often and there are about 20-30 people that regularly go there, but I only really know like 3 people there. One guy in particular tends to dominate every conversation I have, so it’ll be interesting testing starting conversations with others.

  381. Hi Ramit,

    I told one story about my recent trip about the 16 hour trip I took to get to an island. The whole trip took 2 plane trips, 1 bus ride, 2 boat rides and 1 motorcycle ride and a crazy trek up & down a hill. It was interesting to me and the first time I told it, it was fresh in my memory so I was really animated. But I realised after the 3rd telling, I started to rush through the story. I also started to think that it was not such a great story after all..nothing crazy happened! Ok, my colleagues were amused by my dumbness because I did not plan the trip very well.

    I have another story on the same trip where I had to stay up 40 hours straight and ended up on the same boat listening to a group of hangover Aussie tourists mock-threatening to start the boat themselves because the boat bobbing up and down was making them seasick. And that I started to hallucinate bass music. The problem is, this story makes me out to be more of a drunk than I am usually am and is not a story you want to tell colleagues. :)

    So my problem is really developing a good stock of stories to interest people with- I do not want to always want to tell travel stories because that comes across as “been there, done that, how about yours” – too much trophy bagging really. Can one also tell stories based off stuff one reads in an interesting way too..?

  382. Fidel Cashflow Link to this comment

    It’s hard for me to talk to people at a party but even if I get past that part I’m horrible at carrying a conversation after the small talk. After I’m done faking calls to my imaginary girlfriend and rereading emails from twitter notifications (freakin sad now that i’m actually thinking about what i did -__-), I finally muster the courage to approach someone.

    After introduction and ‘what do you do’ I tend to BS with the typical ‘wow that’s awesome…how do you like it? how did you get into it BLAH BLAH BLAH.’ During the conversation I can’t help but notice how boring we both sound talking about careers the ENTIRE TIME.

    I’ve tried making side comments and jokes about personal experiences and it somewhat works. But after I’m out of jokes/stories I end up reverting back to career stuff. I’ll literally go into talking about how a certain movie sucks and after we both agree or it gets quiet, I automatically revert back to the default career topic. It’s not a very memorable conversation at all.

    It would so tight if I could be the freakin man socially. I’m usually reserved but sometimes I’d like to be that loud douchebag making everyone laugh at his made up story. Maybe some day.

  383. - My biggest weakness is three things I over-think everything and begin to ramble while telling a story or I don’t give enough information and it seems doesn’t come across as genuine. Two: I have a difficult time opening up to people. Three: I have an invisible script that was definitely passed down to me from my mom: I don’t like people.
    -So I tried a couple of stories the most prevalent is when I told my mom about my accidental gum swallowing on the bus on the way home. She couldn’t stop laughing. Literally brought her to tears. I told it to her like a Stephen Wright joke. Was not my intention I was actually looking for sympathy. Funny thing I knew she would laugh if I made it dramatic but I thought I could circumvent that if I just told it straight. Nope. Maybe I told it wrong, not really sure.

  384. I’ve told this story a bunch, and I want to test some tweaks to it. This story comes up when I’m talking about travel stories.

    I went backpacking in central Europe after finishing classes I took abroad in Spain. Near the end of my trip, I went to Como, Italy and met an awesome girl from Quebec. We split ways a few days later, knowing that we’d both be in Italy for another week. My last city was Venice, and after arriving I went to an internet cafe. I couldn’t believe that she was sitting right next to me in the cafe! We walked around Venice canals for the day and it was one of those seemingly-impossible moments that I’ll never forget.

    I want to test out how I describe the scenery of Como to really make listeners feel like they’re with me in Italy as I describe the story. I want to engage them more in general.

    A bit related, and a bit not, but I have no problem chatting up girls when I travel. But when I get home, I get so nervous. I think I feel the need to have a comment that will engage them so much. Perhaps I feel like I need to be “perfect” around them to get their attention. I’m learning more that simply approaching them is better than doing nothing. And that’s what I do traveling: I ask them about where they’re from, where they traveled before the current city, etc. AND IT WORKS! For some reason I assume this wouldn’t work at a bar, but why wouldn’t?

  385. Awesome post by Ramit!

    Conversations is a science, but it’s also an art. Getting the details down, knowing techniques, approaches, etc. is is all awesome stuff.

    But once you’ve got all that under your belt (or in your brain), the real work of practicing and turning it into an art really starts.

    You see, it’s like learning to play an instrument: knowing the theory and knowing how to play the notes you see on sheet music is one thing, but it’s another to play something that sounds GOOD.

    Now imagine what it must take to play something that sounds AMAZING (and remember that next time you’re at the symphony)

    Learning techniques give you a quick way into self-efficacy (which helps you build an aspect of self-confidence), but it does not MAKE YOU self-confident. Techniques also give you shortcuts to relatedness, but they only work while you don’t need to go too far off the beaten path.

    Ultimately, what you need is a full course meal on techniques and practices for developing your own “art of conversation”. Some tips:

    - Develop your self-confidence (check out “The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem”)
    - Diversify your interests/tastes (so you have lots of different things to talk about)
    - Diversify your experiences (do lots of things you find interesting — see above)
    - Talk about things that interest YOU, while talking about THEM (ie get curious)
    - Have great stories to tell (see Ramit’s video above)
    - Approach people with wacky questions that fits your interests (so if nothing else you’ll be entertained and you’ll even possibly entertain others from there)
    - Get curious about people (find that thing they really like to geek out on, and you won’t be able to shut them up)
    - Play the game of “How long can I keep this conversation interesting?” and avoid trying to be right at all costs (being right kills a conversation in a heartbeat and turns it into an argument, which is much less interesting)
    - Practice practice practice
    - Find communities/groups/tribes that match your interests/values (or if they don’t exist, create them — in which case you’ll need to become a leader, which is another book altogether)

    Enjoy!

  386. My biggest social weakness is that I have a hard time stopping conversations. Starting them is never a problem. Establishing rapport isn’t a problem. I’m that person that only gets to one or two people at a party because I can’t stop the conversation. I start to get irritated with myself because I want to mingle, but I get stuck – I’ll try to politely bow out and then find that I revert to …”ok, wow, I REALLY need to use the bathroom, will you excuse me for a minute?” Blech! I want to improve this and learn to work the room better.

  387. This social skills stuff has been bugging me for years since I was young, I am aware and tried to improve but the results of improvement was pretty awful considering the number of years I have been trying to change. Eye contact,body language,intonation,volume,awkward pauses,clarity of speech,fluency and etc. has been bugging me. It worries me as I will be entering the working society soon. Cheers.

  388. My biggest challenge is that i tend to give too much when explaining issues or concepts, meetings, interviews, etc. Once i was manning our other company’s exhibition stand and responsible for explaining company products to all commercial visitors. Later, my boss commented that my ‘lecturers’ were too long and aggressive, and i seem to agree with him. When i talk i can’t read the reaction of my listeners for proper feedback to control me, so end up feeling that they haven’t understood me enough. This prompts me to want to continue explaining and even raising my voice at times. At one interview i was asked to become short and precised, after having gone on and on answering a question with immense details and examples.
    When i pick stories, even if my audience laugh, at times i can’t deduce whether they’re laughing at me or the story such that i continue referring back to it in order to ensure their understanding of the link. And what do i do if i get mixed reactions about my story from the audience, some laugh and others appear untouched? Is it wise to use the same story again in a different fora? Thanks!

  389. Getting conversations off the ground is still a big one for me. I’m okay with stories, now that I’ve learned to be concise and stay focused on others in the conversation.

    I know it’s a confidence issue to a large extent. At work or social functions where I perceive others to be more at ease than I am, I have a hard time. But at my girlfriend’s work events, where a lot of people seem to be socially awkward, (giant software company) I step into the social facilitator role.

  390. I have no trouble or anxiety starting conversations and usually have relevant and moderately interesting stories. I run into trouble a couple ways though:

    1) Using the wrong level of formality. Usually presuming a closer and less formal relationship than is appropriate. I’ll notice it, reel it in, but within five minutes I’m back in the same situation. I have a lot easier time being casual so I think it’s just my natural inclination.

    2) Adding details that aren’t important, and sometimes aren’t appropriate. I will know I’m doing it as I’m doing it, and still it happens. Often they won’t be damaging, but just irrelevant noise that clouds the signal of my message.

    3) Over-talking. Not the worst, but enough that it can irritate people. Again, I usually notice and reel it in (like you did with the fast talking on Fox & Friends), but the correction doesn’t stick for very long.

    4) Not ending the conversation before it gets stale. I know how to do it but often I just forget until it’s too late.

    5) Actually listening instead of thought-wandering while half listening. Particularly if the person is a slow speaker, monotone, or otherwise not super-engaging.

    6) Remember names so I can say “Good talking to you X” instead of “I’m awful with names. What was yours again?” when ending a conversation.

  391. Biggest Social Weakness: Creating meaningful professional connections beyond a light-hearted social conversation. More specifically, asking the right questions to engage the other person and learn more about their true interests and work.

    I have experience in the art of small talk (and in fact even struck up a conversation with a new co-worker at our recent holiday party on the dance floor during “Gangnam Style”…I think that takes talent), but when it comes to converting these acquaintances into someone who could be a member of my network, I have struggled. Maybe step 1 is meeting professionals not on the dance floor at an open bar celebration?

    This past week, there was a company-wide conference that allowed me to meet lots of colleagues from different offices and different areas, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time to use those initial connections. Today, I made a point of talking to three of the people I had met last week (mainly just about our weekend activities). I also asked a colleague to coffee who is working on planning a conference I want to learn more about and get involved with and she was more than happy to stay connected. Now I just need to work on making sure these connections don’t fizzle and look at what works (and doesn’t) to improve for the future.

    Story: Being part of the dating world provides the most amazing stories to share with friends. Well, I have a soft spot for nerds, so I have gone out with my fair share of socially awkward engineers. A mutual friend set me up with this guy who took about 20 minutes to decide what he wanted at dinner (he said he didn’t eat out much, so I think he was struggling to understand the menu). Then I had to completely drive the conversation until it landed on video games at which point he talked non-stop for what seemed like an eternity about his favorite game and was even traveling to Sweden for a gaming conference. After dinner, he asked for a ride home since the bus didn’t run that late, so I had to bear the excruciating 20 minute drive. If that wasn’t bad enough, he wanted to go out again, so I literally had to explain to him over text message why I wasn’t interested. Needless to say, we did not go on another date. My friends got a good laugh from the story… AND telling the story made me reflect on how others might perceive my actions in a similar setting, so I guess it was a win-win situation overall!

  392. Biggest weakness: I tend to speak very quickly when I am nervous, and while I notice this I have a lot of trouble slowing down. When I do slow down I notice that my voice begins to sound shaky, so that affects how confident I sound. This does go away if I have the chance to practice what I say beforehand (i.e. presentations, speeches, etc.) but when it pops up during casual conversation it’s a lot more difficult to control. It tends to happen when I address more than one person, so I definitely need help learning how to speak to multiple people at once.

    I may have approached the story test in the wrong way, but ended up with a better story to tell now – I mentioned to my best friend that I wanted to try practicing a story on him to advance my social skills, and his response was to send me a youtube clip of Data from TNG attempting (bad) small talk with Picard. Then he told me he was happy that I was adding a new subroutine to go beyond my current programming.

  393. I clicked through to the landing page for the video and left a comment about my weakness; based on the hyper-linked words, I assumed that was the way to win the training.

    As for the to-dos at the end of this post, I was chatting with someone about how people can sometimes seem so different. I thought it was a great time to tell the story about the “crazy bomber” that was in study hall during my high-school Russian class. As the story goes, he always seemed normal enough; never really said anything crazy and always acted normal and put together. Then he just disappeared from study hall the day after someone had left a “binary bomb” in a Coke bottle on the sidewalk outside the school. It turned out that guy had done it, but that he was apparently just curious if it would work.

    The reaction I got was mixed: in one sense, the person I was talking to seemed horrified while I was telling the story, but they responded quite simply, “You had a Russian class in high school?” I think it is a pretty good story, but I’m always a little surprised that it doesn’t elicit a different response from people–they always seem more shocked that Russian classes were offered in an East TN high school.

  394. Knowing what to say is my biggest weakness. I usually get stuck past the typical small talk of what do you do, how do you know so and so etc. Recently though I’ve started getting better. I now prepare for my social meetings just like I do with my professional meetings. I’ll have a quick brainstorm the night before or on the way about different topics I could bring up. Whether it’s an old friend I haven’t seen in a while or someone I’ve met recently I now have an arsenal of topics before every social engagement. It’s taking less and less time to do this and I’m hoping that eventually, once it becomes more automated in my brain, I won’t have to do it.

    Working on my story toolbox has also been incredibly helpful!

  395. I read this and my first thought “I don’t know any good stories!”. When I really started thinking about it, I realized I have quite alot of stuff! I guess I used to think that connecting with people just happens “magically”. Now I realize that I’ve always used stories when there has been a connection with people I’ve met. When there hasn’t been a connection (even though I really wanted it), it was because I couldn’t come up with anything! Man I could’ve used the story toolbox A LOT!

    Today I told my friend at work how my girlfriend was breaking deadlift personal records in the gym until some douche came giving advice, probably because he didn’t like how much weight she could handle already.

    This story stirred up a good conversation between us because first my friend was impressed how strong my girlfriend was and then he got pissed (in a good way) about the douche because he had same kind of experiences too. Later on when we talked and I mentioned that I’m about to move, he offered help! I wasn’t even planning to ask for it :P Success!

  396. My biggest weakness is that I am afraid to talk to strangers really. It isn’t horrific social anxiety or anything, I am just very hesitant to approach people I do not know to start a conversation. It doesn’t matter whether they are men or women, I always seem to come up with excuses to not to talk to people. However I usually don’t have a problem talking to strangers, men or women, if they approach me first. All the hesitation disappears as long as I don’t have to go and make the first move.

    One of the consequences of my biggest weakness is that I miss out on all the opportunities that meeting new people can bring. I tend to find myself at parties thinking about the people that I could be talking to but never doing anything more than that. I usually fancy the thought and stop right there, unless someone comes up to me.

    At one party I went to, the same sort of thing played out. I saw some ladies that caught my attention but I was afraid to talk to them. I came up with reasons not to say anything and I sort of just sat around waiting for the time to pass by. Later on, a different woman at the party came up to me with one of her friends and initiated conversation. The conversation went well and I had a good time chatting with them. Afterwards I thought to myself, what would have happened if I initiated conversation with the women I saw earlier? It was another missed opportunity and I found myself wishing that they came up to me or that I initiated the conversation with them.

  397. Hi Ramit,

    Thanks for another awesome and thought-provoking post.

    My biggest weaknesses:

    1. Getting stuck in the middle of a conversation with nowhere to go. Example: First week of my new job, out for lunch with my new team, talking to my boss. It gets to a discussion about her kids, and where she was from originally (a place I have never been). And after that, what to say next? Ended with awkward silence. Should I have asked about work stuff? Or non-work stuff? Or what? Or made an observation or a comment / compliment.

    2. Worrying about what to do next / looking awkward when I find myself alone in a room at an event. If I scan a room full of people, how do I pick out the person I want to talk to? Is it the one that looks most interesting? The one I think has the most to teach? The one with the best stories? The one most likely to be aligned with my line of business? The one with the warmest smile? How do you pick? I am chronically indecisive.

    3. Waiting for others to take the lead on the conversation. I do have a bit of social anxiety and my mind can go blank in social situations sometimes. So I tend to find a place to hide near an extrovert who can lead the conversation. But when there are none around it ends up being long silences and shallow questions, and often me talking nervously, and boringly, about myself while I wait for the next question, because I don’t know the question to ask to get the other person’s face to light up.

    Stories – my stories depend on who I am talking to. I like to run, although I have only learnt recently. For example, if I am talking to someone who is into fitness or running I talk about how I started running 7 years ago on a popular running track near where I live. I tell them about how I loved that particular track because there were so many runners that I could look at, and I loved how everyone was different, there was no cookie-cutter runner size or shape. And it felt like the whole world was represented on this one running track, and that everyone was welcome, no matter how fast or how slow. And how inspiring it was to me, who was probably the slowest person there at the time! And then I ask them if they have ever run on that particular track (many people have) and it moves on from there.

    I am so very impressed with people like yourself and your friend Reema in the comments, who have chipped away at their social awkwardness until they have become master conversationalists. That takes a lot of time, and effort, and (I’m sure) some less-than-stellar feedback at times. I salute your dedication and I hope one day to be a tenth as good as you two are at this stuff. I do try to improve but some days I feel like I will never get there without a complete personality transplant!

    Looking forward to your next post Ramit.

    Olivia :)

  398. Hi Ramit,

    Ufff…where to start! I think my biggest weakness is me always trying to be the funny person in the room. Honestly, I find myself pretty funny and by looking at people’s reactions, I think I have that one in the pocket. But the thing is that people always refer to me as the “funny girl”, so I kind of feel the need to prove that I am indeed funny and that those people that referred to me as the “funny girl” weren’t wrong for having that opinion of me. (Ok, I’m on my rambling mode). Anyway, I find it hard to not make funny comments, faces or whatever and get into a REAL conversation…you know, the one where people actually TALK instead of laugh. Conversations where I can talk about my life and he or she can talk about his or hers, like…NORMAL CONVERSATIONS!!! Conversations that actually LEAD to something. I’m not sure how to go from funny to serious/normal and I need some SERIOUS help with that!
    I’ve tried to switch the conversation from a funny one to a normal/serious one, but it seems as though people are just waiting for the next joke in line. They don’t take me seriously and it seems they are not interested in getting to know my serious side, they just want the funny side. Once I notice this, I start cracking jokes again and making weird and ugly faces and the conversation is back to a funny one again. I mean…trust me, once you see the ugly faces I’m able to make, you’ll be laughing your balls off as well ;) But Ramith, please help me in having normal conversations with people as well, so I can get to know them on a deeper level and actually build a relationship with them if I want to.

  399. I used a story about the “pixie stick challenge”, a challenge we used to do at my old job where people would chug a can of coke and down a large pixie stick to see who could break the record of 28 seconds. I told the story to my husband, and even though he had heard me talk about it in the past, he still seemed somewhat interested in hearing about it again. I’ll have to try it on a stranger next!

  400. My biggest weakness is lacking the confidence to lead the discussion. I often feel that anything I say needs to be relevant to the current discussion because I am not good at quick transitions to a new topic/story.

    I also love the idea of a story toolbox. I often feel that I am not memorable enough. Too many of my stories have been re-tellings of my friends’ escapades. I know one of the last ways to be memorable to someone is to talk about your interesting friends instead of being interesting yourself. Even if you’re BFFs with Derek Jeter you’re still “that guy who knows Derek Jeter”.

  401. Amanda Wuenschel Link to this comment

    Challenge accepted! My story is fairly short, but it will always get a response: Over the past year, I’ve lost about 70 pounds just by working out and eating better–eating less. I feel fantastic and have gained a lot of confidence in the process.

    The test:

    As I was working, one of my regulars came up to the counter to look at our bakery case. She was just waiting for a friend, so we started chatting about the sweets, and she mentioned that she wasn’t worried about calories because she worked out. Laughing, I joked, “I work out so I can eat whatever I want.”

    She looked interested and asked if I’d been working out long.

    “Actually,” I said, then launched into my story.

    Then she asked how I ran, and I got to tell her about POSE running, and she suggested HIIT for me, which I’d heard of but never consciously participated in.

    Then, since one of my goals this week is to ask at least one of my regulars what they “do” every day this week, that’s what I did.

    Turns out, she’s a personal trainer.

    to;dr Told my story, added to my network.

  402. I have one story that I tell frequently about my travels abroad. While unexpectedly spending a night in a Scottish airport I stopped by one of the shops to pick up Scotch as a gift. It was right around when they enacted the new liquid restrictions for carry-ons, so the shop owner made sure I still had my checked bags. I explained that I was sleeping in the airport and and his response was “Maybe you should buy a bigger bottle.”

    Over time I’ve practiced piecing together several parts of the story in a concise way, with set up for a few punchlines. I’ve found it works for many audiences because so many people love to travel and can relate to things going wrong.

    My biggest problem with social skills are my nerves. When talking to strangers, or even co-workers, my heart will start racing, making my speech chopped and rushed. Noticing my nerves, I start to over-think and worry about smiling enough, my gestures, not sounding stupid, keeping the conversation going, etc.

    My small talk skills aren’t that bad, but I know I’m not making the best impression. I don’t know for sure, but I often fear this cost me my dream job offer a couple years back.

  403. Hi Ramit,

    You know those really nerdy, awkward Asian kids in highschool? Big thick glasses, always hiding behind books? Yeah, that used to be me. Like you, I used to be a 125 pound monster, a destroyer of conversations and social norms. So over the years I’ve had to work really hard to becoming socially adept.

    Happily, I have a much better command of social communication skills now (Toastmasters helped a lot) but like any field, competency is easy, but mastery is hard.

    For me my biggest weakness is not testing enough. Now that I am competent, I find it hard to motivate myself to keep testing and honing my stories and approaches until perfect. I was struck by how much you seem to be testing in the video, and that seems to occur at a higher frequency for you. That’s definitely something I will incorporate into my life in the future.

  404. I thought about the weakness question for a while, and I think one of my biggest weaknesses is that my social skills almost directly correlate with my mood. If I’m in a good mood no problem, but if I’m in a bad mood I know I get snappish and sullen, and I’m not a good enough actress to fake wanting to mingle with other people even when the situation might demand it…

    … And as I wrote that, I realized what blog I’m currently commenting on and that I should obviously set up microtests to see what types of things swing my mood from bad to good with the most consistency and sustainability – you know, as opposed to microtesting which of my fake grimace-smiles makes the least number of babies cry.

    Testing shall commence later today. Anyway.

    I told a story about spilling food all over my car to two different people. The first time I kind of made a face and said it flatly, and the tellee was like ‘oh man that sucks’ but no huge reaction and our chat stayed short. The second time I put much more emotion into the telling, added gestures and strung the whole thing out to be as long and ridiculous as possible, and the reaction response was probably not much longer than the first time BUT the person seemed a lot more engaged in the story and the post-story conversation length was a lot longer! Accelerating social traction in action.

  405. Another recovering alcoholic story for you right here. Only in this one, I’m the alcoholic.

    Since a very young age I relied on alcohol to carry me through social events. If there wasn’t alcohol involved I used to opt out of going anywhere with too many people. If people were drinking I know that all I had to do was drink my nerves away, and unlock (what I though were) my social skills. WIthout the alcohol I was crippled, and I had no clue how people just chatted with each other effortlessly.

    I’m 30 years old today and I’m happy to say that I’m 4 years sober. I suffer from having undeveloped social skills though. You remember those awkward early teen years when people were still figuring things out? That’s me now. You see, when I started drinking at 13 my social skills stopped improving.

    I still feel crippled interacting socially, despite having done many things to try and improve (including taking a “how to pick up girls” bootcamp).

    Working as a freelancer I know that my lack of social skills are hurting me financially, so I’m determined to conquer this once and for all.

  406. My biggest challenge is breaking the ice with people and getting to the point where they are actively engaged in communicating with me.

    Although I’m naturally introverted, I’ve learned enough about social skills to get solid conversations going, but generally only after I’ve hit the point that they are 100% on board.

    In practice, this means that with people who go up to me, introduce themselves, make a comment, ask a question, etc. I can quickly follow up and get a fun back-and-forth going that can go on indefinitely.

    But going up to people and getting past that inflection point myself is still a challenge.

    Half of it is being too “in my head” and assuming that they are too into whatever they are currently doing to be bothered by me. In reality, I’ve found that people are more friendly and willing to talk to me than I imagine them to be.

    The second is getting an engaging conversation going that gets them hooked.

    I’ve found “canned” ice breakers to be okay, but only if they’re really basic and general (such as the ones that you describe in this video), but the more specific (ex. “who do you you think is the best James Bond actor, blah blah blah”) the more I get in my head and can’t really be in the moment.

    I’ve found I get the best mileage about observing something in the immediate environment and quickly thinking up a question or comment to bring up to the person or group of people. (ex. “Can you believe how many heat lamps they have in this outdoor bar patio in Southern California? I spent went to school in Minnesota and they always had fewer, even in the dead of winter!” It keeps me in the moment and spontaneous.

    But even still, I might get a response from people, but don’t always get 100% engagement.

    I’m really not sure if this means that I’m too in my head, if I should try to “act cool” and move along to start a conversation with someone else like I’m not going to let their lack of engagement make me try too hard, or power through with another question or comment.

    Anyways, great video Ramit! My biggest takeaway was the “what brings you here?” ice breaker. I haven’t used it before but will add it to my repertoire to test it out!

  407. I don’t maintain eye contact! After watching your video I realize that by not watching the reaction of my listener that I have no way of testing the effectiveness of my stories/points/ramblings. I’m comfortable talking to new people, initiating and maintaining conversation, and have even been known to make a graceful exit; but by missing this fundamental skill, I don’t know if it’s doing any good. Thanks!

  408. My biggest weakness is being too long-winded when trying to tell a story. This can make it seem like the story lacks credibility and conviction and is a poor social trigger. I used to find it especially difficult to accurately depict a story to others when they’ve been drinking and I haven’t. With all eyes on me, I often found myself rambling. This is something I did for quite a while, but I’ve been working on refining my stories with Dream Job techniques, testing responses and I’m getting out of that habit.

    When my friends want to share this particular story with others at a party, I’m now asked to recount it because I “tell it better”.

    Here’s a story about how a simple word can make all the difference:

    One of my best friends had just moved to Toronto on his own. It was a big adventure for him and as an Irish man, the first thing he did was find a bar. He got chatting to a few women like the drunken social butterfly that he is and was asked back to a party by one particular girl.

    They got a taxi back to her place and as he was so smashed, he had no idea where he was going. Not that it would have made any difference because he knew absolutely nothing about Toronto.

    She led him to her apartment and almost as soon as he walked in, he realized the huge mistake he had made. He had just walked into a crack house.

    He drunkenly made his excuses and tried in vain to leave, but the girl wanted his money. He couldn’t understand why she had tricked him like this. The girl’s pimp was on the scene pretty quickly and as my friend protested, he felt a hard metal object pointing into his ribs. He looked down and saw a real gun for the first time in his life. The pimp then told him that there was no way he was getting out of there without paying. As he had no cash in his wallet, he was escorted to the nearest ATM and made pay for wasting the time of the working girl and the pimp.

    The moral of the story:

    Make sure you’re being asked to “go to A party”. Not “go party”.

    I tested this story out on a coworker today when we were chatting about travel and seeing new places. He laughed his ass off. I hope it gets the same reaction from anyone else reading it.

  409. I’m not sure how to follow up with my connections.

    I can strike up a conversation with people, meet someone while I’m out (ie. bar, class, work, social function), have a great conversation and even exchange phone numbers; however I don’t know how to continue that conversation past the initial meeting. Problem is outside of that predetermined context (we both wanted a drink, or want to learn about a particular subject) I’m not sure how to carry on a relationship with this individual.

    I’ve figured the next step is to have a great phone conversation with them, however I find it harder to conversate that way because there is no visual ques to feed off of; so i’m not sure if I’m rambling, if the topic is boring, and so on.

    For instance, I met a girl whom we both shared a design class together. During class we have a lot of discussions about design, our opinions on the professors and even discovering we both went to the same college in a different city at different times. So after months of trying to get an outing with her outside of class I found out we barely had anything to say to each other. It seemed like all my good stories and comments had already been said and I had nothing more to add. Needless to say we haven’t gone out again, but we still talk in class all the time.

    I feel this happens a lot to me; outside of a predetermined context I fail to have any really interesting things to say to people. This is especially frustrating when dating because after the first 3 dates I run out of topics and anecdotes.

  410. Told the story of my 1-day snowboard trip to a colleague, inclusding two 9+ hr bus drives and only 5 hrs of boarding while being awake roundabout 50 hours total.
    He was interested but I didnt really have the feeling he hung on my lips or something. Maybe I should have chosen a funny failure story like in Ramits example.

  411. My biggest social weakness is that my mind goes blank in the middle of conversation. I can go up and talk to anyone about work and social issues. But when the conversation shifts to talking about myself, personal experiences and small talk, I just go blank. It is the worst thing when in some circles I come across very impressive only to come across as a complete zero in others.

  412. I have a story I sometimes tell to demonstrate just how bad I can be at social situations. I have trouble actually caring about the small talk details and it comes across too often.

    In business school, I was in an interview for a job I thought I really wanted–the whole reason I went to b-school. There were two interviewers, the VP and another manager. I had to convince them that I was a good fit for project management coming from information sales. As the interview starts, the VP opens small talk and we both mention we’re from New York. And she says she grew up in Albany. I said something like “Oh, that’s great, I only drove by there once.” (WTF??) Totally true statement, but a terrible way to start. I don’t recall the rest of the interview because I probably said nothing else useful.

    Later that day there was a cocktail reception where one of the career people cornered me and proceeded to tear me down. The interviewers were less than impressed with my social skills and how I presented my experience. I had embarrassed myself and them. That scared me and I worked furiously to improve for the next big interview–which I won. I won it over people who were probably more qualified. But guess what? I blew that internship because I went back to the old ways and rubbed people the wrong way. I know I’m capable of going bad or doing well, so I remind myself of this story now and then to get back on track. Thanks for sharing these teardowns, they help a lot.

  413. Ramit:

    My biggest social skills challenge would have to be my monotone, lulling voice. Even when I’m focusing on being expressive and passionate, videos of me reveal that I’m at like 20% the intensity you observe from a colorful speaker.

  414. My biggest challenges in social interactions are my limited range of facial expression and too much eye contact – yes, you heard that right. On being told by my parents to make eye contact with people I am speaking to, I, from a young age started walking up to people staring them right in the eyes. Combine that with an expressionless face and you can imagine the effect …. weird. Needless to say, my friends have told me that I come across as cold and judging, even arrogant. I noticed that this was having a real effect on my performance in interviews – whereas hiring committees thought I was great on paper, I would always sense that interviewers were ever so slightly disappointed upon meeting me in person.

    My wife is socially extremely skilled and a very good interviewer, she observed me during a skype interview from behind the computer screen and gave me really valuable feedback – mostly concerning my lack of ability to do small talk.
    According to her, I gave the impression that the interview as a stage where I needed to give a performance rather than a two-way conversation. Consequently, I ignored all the little cues the interviewers used to indicate that they wanted to make small talk in order to create a more pleasant atmosphere. “When that guy on the panel mentioned about his South Asian ancestry, that was a cue for you. You could have picked up on that and talked about your recent trip to India. But you totally ignored him and kept droning on about how good you are! I could hear in his voice that he felt more than a little slighted.”

    She was totally right of course – the problem was that I was unable to pick up on these little cues, even though I could actually see the interviewers on the screen, whereas she could tell what was actually going on just from listening to their voices.

  415. Hi Ramit – great video! My biggest weakness in social settings is that I’m hyper self conscious about the way I’m being perceived. The minute I’m in large social settings, my mind begins to race with all the ways I am falling short in the setting. I start to stress out about the way I look, what I’m saying, what I’m not saying, etc and I have physiological reactions (my heart starts racing, I start perspiring) which doesn’t help lower my level of self consciousness. I know I shouldn’t compare myself or define my self worth with what other’s think but it’s like I just get mentally hijacked in large social settings.

    T

  416. I’d be EXCELLENT for this training because I’d be the one person to get the MOST out of this. As a recovering shy nerd, my biggest weakness growing up was not having the confidence to start conversations with people. I felt as if I’d be intruding their lives. As you can imagine, this made my dating, social and professional life suffer. How can you learn all these social tweaks if you can’t even bring yourself to have conversations? It drove me CRAZY. I knew I had to turn my life around and started actively learning all I could to get better. I came across your blog and learned a lot from your dream job material. I realized I had to get rid of all those bad mental scripts in my mind when it came to networking. From there, I could now test out tweaks to my social skills such as turning questions into statements and improve my storytelling. Small changes that can have a big impact. I am proud to say I have seen improvement! For example, I have a few dates just this past month and I am on my way to meet with a high profile VP in a industry I want to learn more about. At the same, I am BURNING to learn more to get to myself to that next level. Thank you so much for your blog!

    -Kevin

  417. Thank you Ramit, I had been looking forward to this.

    Finding words (at all, never mind the optimal ones) is a struggle for me. I either go blank, or think too much and don’t speak at all. This makes it hard to engage and express myself correctly. It is troublesome in the moment but also hinders the development of relationships over time.

    Here follows a delightfully embarrassing example: While at a party, invited by my almost but not quite there yet boyfriend, I was chatting to some of his mates and trying to avoid the “hows things with X” question, which I was not at all prepared to answer. Along comes an awkward silence at the end of a topic and I knew I had to change direction and take control, but in my moment of not-knowing-what-to-say-itis, the question was asked. Before I knew what had happened, My answer had come, and it had come in the form of a half grunt, half “uuugh”, not unlike the sound of a suffocating sloth.
    The embarrassment was short compared to the lingering thought of that response coming across as though hated the guy.

    My remedies to my not-knowing-what-to-say-itis all have their own crux. Blurting out the first thing I think of is often irrelevant to the conversation.
    Pre meditated conversation topics make me feel dry and repetitive and when asking questions it is hard to get away from the boring and overused.
    My default now has become finding a mutual topic of interest to discuss. This has triggered conversations that can flow for hours and some surprising new facts from strangers. I do however find it difficult to move past this stage and develop more rounded relationships.

    I am ready to learn from the masters and get rid of my suffocating sloth habits for good.

  418. I don’t know how to start a conversation. I sort of treat them like double dutch and either hijack an existing conversation or start in the middle and make the other person catch up, which doesn’t go over well with most people.

    Once, I’ve started the convo, I tend to jump around in topics and refer to things 3 subject changes ago without notice and for some of my similar minded friends it’s an interesting game, for others, over shorter periods it’s perhaps intriguing but for everyone else, you can see the distress and the “checking out” of the conversation and see them wanting to escape in anyway possible.

    At which point, I’ve found it far to easy to just walk away without properly detaching, kind of like taking out the flash drive before properly ejecting first. In short encounters and especially in bigger groups of people, it can easily go unnoticed and for the most part, I’m entertaining enough, that in those instances it kind of leaves people wanting more. But, once it becomes a one on one situation, I just come off as awkward.

    I’m lucky that some people think that awkward is adorable. So I’m not totally friendless. And equally fortunate that there are enough awkward people in the world, that I’m not shunned. But I’d like to work on improving my social skills because I have a lot to offer but the words don’t come out right more often than I like.

    I get nervous and I stutter and mumble or I get loud. I remember one instance where I wanted to someone that I liked and because I couldn’t think straight and have that stutter-mumble issue, I had to repeat everything 3x. Eventually, the person got annoyed and stopped listening. It doesn’t feel good to see people check out, when you know how cool you are when nerves don’t eat your words. I wanna work on that.

    I’d love your help Ramit.

    Thanks,
    L

  419. My biggest weakness is my fear of silence. I hate that awkward lull, particularly if the person with whom I’m speaking is passive and looking to me to make the next statement. Invariably I’ll chime in with whatever randomness pops into my head next just to stop the silence. That’s how the “oh shit, I should’ve said __ or asked about ___” in the car ride home 30 min later pile up. Because instead of pulling out clever things to say, I was like “crap! silence! Cats?” (I don’t actually talk about cats, but sometimes I think I couldn’t do much worse!)

    So my goal for improvement is how to make peace with silence. Based on your recommendations, I’ll try restating/reflecting upon something they just said, or maybe the conversation is just “done” and I need to politely extricate myself. Thanks!

  420. Hi Ramit!

    Great post, it had many tips that I’ll start using this week during some VIP natural networking meetings. Usually it takes a while for me to feel comfortable enough within a conversation to loosen up and just be myself.

    The story that I usually use is that I worked at Walt Disney World. People are just instantly interested on knowing about the experience and how I managed to have that opportunity. Even though several other of my friends participated on the program it seems like we had a very different experience. The way I tell the story usually varies depending on what the people that I’m talking to seem most interested in.

    On December my family and I went to the Dali Museum in Florida and decided to grab a bit while we waited for my little brother, who was shopping for some paintings. The little restaurant area was quite full, so when my mother and I joined my brother at the table a guy had asked my brother if we could share the table with and a friend. After a while we were all awkwardly seating at the same table without talking the guy asked us where we were from. We suddenly started talking about how we were from Guatemala and then found out that they were from China. When we asked them about their studies we found out that they were student at a local university and they started talking about the differences between the U.S. student social life and what they were used to back home. That’s when I brought up that I had participated on the Disney College Program and how I had perceived the same differences. And how it was very enriching to have the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world. At this point I let them know that it was through that experience that I met a friend that’s from Shanghai China. The conversation continued although my brother and the friend of the guy were the ones who spoke the most about a ton of different topics.

    It was a great experience to be able to just randomly be able to have a great conversation that made that day very interesting. I regret not participating as much as I would’ve like to but it was a great achievement for me to just participate and actually have something interesting to say. I’m sure all the advice you’ve given us through this post will be very useful to keep improving and become more socially skilled at any situation I encounter myself in.

  421. My social skills take an epic bungee jump depending on my mood and inclination to actually attempt to be charming. When I’m in a good mood, things are pretty great. I am able to fully engage with people and socialize comfortably. But I do find that when I am tired, hungry, or just plain down right annoyed, I will let conversations totally stall out in the middle of the flow. It’s when I don’t take command of the conversation by asking another question or segwaying into the appropriate story and just awkward silences ensue.

    For me, through reading this it’s been more revealing to help me recognize this feeling in my mood or behavior and push through it or eat something to avoid that over-tired feeling. I also need to be challenged to refine and test a few good stories to pull out of my hat. I’m going to incorporate writing and practicing these stories in the next week and have 3 stock stories by next Wednesday well rehearsed and well refined. I’m going to test these stories out at the next 2 social events and continue to iterate and improve upon them as I continue to pursue some networking goals. I have that opportunity tonight at an investor meeting for one of the breweries I’m involved with. Should be an excellent opportunity to continue to put into practice the social skills you’re teaching us today. Thanks!

  422. Thanks for this great post! I have a few stories in my Story Toolbox from Dream Job, but I am excited to think of new ones that can be used in more casual social situations (rather than in interviews). I was actually rehearsing them in the shower today :-)

    My biggest social weakness is not being able to translate what’s going on in my head into words. This has been a problem since I was very young. When I’m in a group of people––even close friends––I will listen to what they are saying and will have lots of thoughts about what I could say back, but I just end up being quiet. I’m not sure why this happens; is it shyness? I feel like there is a wall blocking my words from coming out. It is so frustrating because I often feel like I can’t truly connect with people or be myself. Oddly enough it is less of a problem at work; in professional situations I find it easier to take control of this issue and say what’s on my mind. I have a very clear vision of the kind of woman I want to be in my career and I find it easier to live up to that vision in the office than to live up to the kind of person I would like to be when I am with friends and new people I meet. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes get tongue-tied at work; I notice it most when I’m in meetings with multiple people. I have trouble stating my opinions and making sure that I’m adding value and that I’m heard. However, this is almost never a problem in one-on-one situations. When I’m with only one other person I can say everything that’s on my mind and really contibute to the conversation.

    Actually, writing about it has helped me see that it’s really a problem with group social situations. That’s a helpful insight.

    Your recent emails have inspired me to invite one person from work out to lunch each week. I know this is part of Dream Job, but I had stopped doing it because I prefer to eat alone. But one lunch a week won’t kill me! I’ve already invited our head of HR to lunch on Wednesday. It’s time to start living in the world that is, not the world as I want it to be.

  423. Usually on Monday work days the standard question is how was your weekend? And normally most people’s response would be ‘good’ and so would mine but this time I tested a story of my weekend telling people I went bird watching and trying raw oysters for the first time at Point Reyes. It was interesting enough that other coworkers participated in my story and added their experiences and suggestions. The result was way better than the standard boring ‘good’ response.

  424. My biggest weakness is that socializing is usually emotionally draining for me. I know the reason, it’s because I’m an introvert and I’ve always been like this. It’s something I need to overcome, at least in the most critical, high reward areas.

    The problem is the worst when entering a new environment, like arriving at a new training program with lots of other fresh faces. I find myself trying to escape social situations to be by myself rather than meeting new people. I end up not making friends and being excluded from the group, not because I don’t belong in the group but because I’ve just failed to do the ground work to get to know people, learn names, and develop a rapport. It’s especially crippling now, because out of college the opportunities to easily make friends are limited.

  425. Being the chubby guy, I feel uneasy just going up to someone and starting a conversation. I feel like they are thinking “Oh great, now I have to talk to him”. It is like I am not worthy. I then panic and my inner voice starts going crazy about how this is dumb, I should just leave, this never works etc. This is my biggest weakness when it comes to social skills.

    • You know Jimmy, not every woman (or man) likes dating an asparagus. And most people enjoy being others for who they are (and how they make them feel), not what they look like. Yes, judgemental people exist everywhere. I’ve met a few. Having said that, you have to feel yourself that you are worthy – no matter your size, shape, hair or skin colour, accent and so on. You have just as much right to start a conversation as anybody else. To me, it feels like a visible-invisible script that needs to be shredded, burned, and the ashes spread in space. What you tell yourself (about yourself) weighs way more (horrible unintended pun, but I’m going to leave it) than what you look like – in any interaction. I bet too that all those things you tell yourself appear like a brick wall around you making you seem unapproachable.
      BTW – my inner voice used to sound a lot like yours, so there’s hope.

  426. Some of the commenters have mentioned how they really enjoy connecting with people. I’m the opposite – my challenge in social situations is pushing myself to be interested in folks long enough to invest in conversation. My concerns run both ways – that the person will have nothing interesting to share with me or, in other cases, that the person will not be interested in what i can share. I don’t want to fake interest or, other times, even take a chance, so I stand back.

    I’ve made improvements in this area a priority for myself this year, so your video and other materials are very valuable and timely. Heck, I even spent time reading through a few dozen of the 450+ comments before diving in with my own. It is comforting to see so man people in the same boat.

  427. Hi Ramit,

    This video really got my attention. I wanted to enter into the contest. My problem: starting the conversation, lying, and running away.

    I’m in the entertainment business and I get invited to networking events. When I’m invited to networking events and do not no one there, I usually stay for 15 minutes. I literally time myself, keep looking at my watch and run for the door. Seriously, I fast walk to the door, and I have no idea why. Although, if I know one person there, I usually stick with them and depend on them to introduce me to people they know, and don’t start the conversation. I am so afraid to start a conversation, because I’m afraid to fail; this goes with meeting a guy I like on the street.

    Nevertheless, I consider myself a good-looking educated woman. But keeping the conversation going when I first start talking to someone I know, sometimes can get akward because I’m afraid they’re not going to like me. At times I even lie a little in a conversation to make myself sound more interesting. I picked this trait up from my dad. I love the football team the Raiders. I’m from Oakland, lived 15 minutes from the Oakland Coliseum, but I don’t know the whole team roster. A guy was talking to me that I really liked, and he found out I liked the Raiders. He asked me about certain football players, and I just went about the conversation like I knew all the players, when I only mentioned one player I saw on a commercial. Telling the truth in a conversation, ahhhh, I’m interesting, but I get scared.

  428. One of the things I think I struggle with is what to do with attention once I have it. I’m a pretty natural communicator, so starting conversations and keeping them going are pretty natural for me.

    Where I think I really fall apart is in groups. I get the groups attention and tell a great story. People are in stitches. But I struggle with letting it go. If there’s any silence after the laugh, I jump right back in. Pretty soon I’m that guy who dominates the conversation. The worst part is actually FEELING like a jackass WHILE I’m being one.

    I’m trying to get better at pivoting the conversation to other people and getting comfortable with silence (giving other people room to step in), but I think I’m still pretty weak here.

  429. OK, I thought I would give this test a REAL test. Last night, I had to attend a wake of a gentleman who has unfortunately passed but I did not know well. This gentleman had nine children, several grandchildren, & great-grandchildren. I knew 2 of the children and only “knew of” the rest. In addition, several other relatives and friends of the departed were there to pay their respects.

    So, making small talk was going to be quite the challenge here. While this may seem to be an unfair test for Ramit’s methods, you never know when there will be an opportunity, so I felt I needed to at least try.

    Being a generally snarky person, I reviewed Ramit’s video and pondered what kind of response I would receive to walking up to someone, or shaking one of the children’s hands in the receiving line, and saying, “What brought you here?” I could just imagine the looks, and, though very, very tempting, I decided it would probably not make the best impression, which is what I’m attempting to do.

    Of course, asking the one of the children “So how did you know Bob?” would probably not be the most nuanced choice either.

    So, for the children, I went with, “Hi, I’m Patty. I’m a friend of [child #1] and I’m very sorry for your loss.” I almost actually went with “child #1″ but I got the feeling that my warped sense of humor would be lost on these folks this evening.

    Outside of the receiving line, my husband and I stood around, as we usually do at *any* event, not just wakes (we try, of course, to frequent as many as possible) and do our usual wallflower routine. But, I was determined to test Ramit’s method, so I walked over to someone I did not know and did not identify as a relative and said, “Hi, my name is Patty. So how did you know Bob?” I got a pretty good response (this person worked with him for several years), and then I tried to employ another technique. The children had set up several photo montages of the deceased, and I decided to adapt one of Ramit’s lines from the video and said to the gentleman “I noticed in one of the pictures that Bob was holding a newspaper–I couldn’t read a headline; what do you think he was trying to show with the paper?” Turns out, this person did know–Bob wrote a comic strip for a Navy newspaper when he was in the service years ago, and he was holding up one of his creations. This led to a discussion of Bob as an artist, one of his hobbies, and it turned out that this individual remarked on Bob’s talent at his job (in manufacturing, nothing really to do with drawing), but on his ability to think out of the box. Now, this didn’t turn into anything like a job offer or other new money-making opportunity, but it was worth it to learn something about Bob, and also to see the look on my husband’s face, which was a paniky “Why are you talking to this person??? You don’t know him!!! Don’t you know we’re supposed to be wallflowers here???”

    Bottom line–it worked. I was able to start a conversation, even in a place where starting a conversation is not the most comfortable place. If I can do it here, then you can do it anywhere.

  430. Not my story but it comes up from time to time in conversations with older acquaintances who admire my decision to return to school. They say things like”I’m too old to go back to school.” I say “It’s never too late,” then I hit them with this news story about this 80-something-year-old who’s earned about 23 bachelor’s degrees and 9 master’s degrees and is still going for more. And it’s not because he’s a super genius or anything, he’s just curious and likes the process. They get this look like they’re considering it, and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

  431. Ramit,

    First off, thanks for the video!

    I think that my biggest weakness when it comes to social situations is reading and understanding body language.

    Recently, at an out-of-town company meet-up where multiple people from different levels and different locations of the company got together for a conference, I was chatting with an upper-level manager during a break. We were mostly making small talk, discussing things like what locations we had worked at and what we were working on now. Looking back, I SHOULD HAVE noticed two things that he was communicating to me with his body language:

    (1) He was ready to leave the conversation before I was. By the end of the conversation, his arms were crossed, his toes were directed away from me, and his eyes wandered about looking for a way to escape. After watching your video, Ramit, I realized that I was THAT guy in the conversation, refusing to let go because I had “just one more thing” to say.
    (2) (Honestly, I think this one says more about me) During the conversation, he was genuinely interested in “talking shop”, and wanted to know more specific information about the location I work at and what I worked on there. However, I kept things very high level and consistently deflected the duties of keeping the conversation going back onto him. Had I been ready, this would have been a perfect time for a unique, pretty detailed but short story about my work, or even a good transition to another subject. But, since I wasn’t ready, the only “tool” in my tool belt was sarcasm. So, that’s what I used, and I got a distinct “Who the hell do you think you are?!” look!

    As I’m writing this, I think that my actual biggest weakness may not be reception of others’ body language but may in fact be thinking that sarcasm is appropriate in all situations. I get the feeling it isn’t!

    I’ve gotten a little better about keeping my sarcasm in check since then, but I’m interested to know your opinion, Ramit… Are there social situations where sarcasm is acceptable? What about professional situations?

  432. My biggest weakness is wanting to come across intellectually, using the right scripts, the right words. So, I can sound like I know what I’m talking about and master the jargon of my own profession.
    I am a very passionate and charismatic person when it comes to spiritual topics, religion, family, teenagers, and pets, and have experienced that moment in a conversation where there is a deep sense of enlightment. When it comes to my profession, I’ve been told I don’t seem like an accountant. the feeling that I’m not cut out to be an accountant creeps up on me.
    Example: At my interviews I get stuck, I lack the skill of setting myself apart and speaking with confidence, proving why I’m right for the job, by confortably sharing the best version of myself as you put it.
    I am definitely finding a relation with your topics they are truly helping me define myself. Thank you for breaking it down.

  433. Weakeyecontact Link to this comment

    My biggest weakness when it comes to social skill is eye contact. I always had the habit of looking down at the floor since I was a kid, due to always getting myself into mischief and concluding with parent scolding at me, thus eyes looking at the floor. As I got older I forced myself to make more eye contact which would last 1 second of eye contact and then my eyes would wonder off at people around us, speaker shoulders, and/or following speaker hand gestures. After 10-15 seconds of wondering off, again I would make 1 second eye contact, etc, etc., which was driving me insane and wanted to shoot myself out of my misery. I didn’t want my lack of eye contact to be interpreted as lack of confidence. So, the next thing I did was practice eye contact with close friends, family and girlfriends.

    My eye contact has improved but with consequence. You see Ramit, I have a lazy eye and when making eye contact for more than 10-20 second, the person I’m talking to don’t know which eye to lock in. Their eyes tries to lock in both my good eye and lazy eye that their eyes end up crossed eyed, then they get dizzy, close their eyes and shake their head to shake off their dizziness.

    As far as for the other social skills you pointed out, I was unconscious incompetence about it but WILL strive to be unconscious competence starting with building a story toolbox.

  434. Have now watched the video. I would say my biggest social weakness is that if I don’t like someone I tend not to want to make small talk or a social connection. This is fine in a non business environment but not great with clients. Some very senior people I know are not very likeable and I think my inanbility to be with them as I am with most others doesn’t help my carrer.

    Re testing a story, I did today. Meet someone for lunch today to find out about what their job entails, as I’m considering switching roles. I now have someone else looking out for jobs for me (that’s 2 so far) :-)

    Told him the story of my friend who accidentallly got paid about 40k one month by his company, when he only earned abt 1500. Made a joke about him putting it in a high interest account before he told the company. He laughed at how all big corporations are rubbuish at administration etc.

  435. My biggest weakness is that I sometimes get very nervous and I do not know why. I am somewhat social and I do not have any problem making friends.

    However, when I have to speak to someone older than me, I can get nervous. In
    addition to that, being graded like in a presentation or having to speak in my second language can be stressful for me.

    know that all the factors that cause stress will combine in my workplace in the future and I am determined to overcome them.

    I am 19 and I do not know if it is a common thing for people in my age.

  436. I listened to this yesterday, and then did a couple of tests

    I found I was listening differently, and during the conversation I changed what I was going to say (scripted stories or responses) a couple of times to ask more interesting questions of my conversation partner. I realized I would have plowed through this chat with my own stories, and didn’t want to walk away with the “we’ve been chatting for 5+ minutes, but I still know nothing about you” problem. This is someone I’ve seen a few times, so it will be nice to run into them on the street or in social circles and have specific things to catch up with them about. Previously, I would have considered them an acquaintance by face (probably not even by name).

  437. It’s too cold in Madrid today. When I arrived to my desk this morning I said to my work mates: “I met a polar bear downstairs right now, he asked me if he can come in to the building because is too cold outside, and I answered that it depends on how much he eats…” everyone look at me with poker face, then laughing and start to follow and my weird history. nice!

  438. Aha – and I’ve missed the assignment response. My biggest social weakness a lacking desire to fake my way through a conversation. If I’m not engaged, I am checked out or moving on. I’m okay with cutting my losses conversationally, but really (really) think I should learn to navigate this with more grace. I don’t think I’m terrible or abrasive to interact with in this situation, but do think this would be a stellar skill to have – particularly in the career spectrum.

    Otherwise, I’m crap with names unless I am able to tie a person to a story or have some prior point of reference, for example “I’d like you to meet my friend James, whom I’ve told you so much about! We went painting together in Iceland…”. I’ve reached a level of acceptance on this and normally fess up right away. 95% of people are fine with it, or in a similar situation. If I’ve had this problem, having a follow-up conversation where we learn something interesting about each other as a point of reference seems to help me mentally catalog them better.

  439. I think my biggest weakness is sustaining or steering the conversation, this is more difficult especially in groups. After the initial introduction/s, one of the socially expert person cleverly manages to steer the conversation to the topic of his liking (say politics, market) and then he/she has a lot to talk about that. Even if I try to change the topic he or she will immediately bring the conversation to something where he has a lot to talk about. After a while, I simply withdraw and if I am in a group, even other people seem disinterested. As a result, I do not make those connections or acquaintances that I should have with the means of the conversation. Instead I am just this weird guy, listening to their conversation standing quietly.

  440. One of my major problems with social skills is being overcome with fear and negative self talk if I read that the other person isn’t really connecting or appreciating what I’m doing.

    Despite telling myself to not panic and to just change my approach or work harder to find another angle, I can find my energy levels falling, I start to get physical fear symptoms like facial tension and shoulder hunching, I lose my flow, get brain freeze, all sorts of stuff that’s obviously not going to help!

    Basically, what appears to be simple disapproval turns me from being reasonably confident feeling into a feeling of rejection and failure.

    Sometimes I can control it, and sometimes not but I haven’t yet been able to test it because when this happens I’m just surviving and not learning.

  441. Thank you so much for coming up with this challenge. I’m going to take a couple of days to come up with a story and then test it.

    In the meantime, I just wanted to share with you how you have just clarified why I have always wanted to emulate a long ago mentor of mine. I was never able to quit put my finger on what made him so dynamic. Over the course of several years this man had been in and out of my life either in a professional or academic manner. Long story short, he had always made me feel that he was genuinely interested in my situation. (This is not to say that he was “fake” in any way, I really think he was truly interested.) Sadly he passed away unexpectedly and I went to attend his service. It was held in a small gymnasium where he worked. They basically had an open mike service where anyone could come up and say a few words about him. I was totally amazed how after three hours each and every person who stood up expressed the same feelings that I felt about him. (By the way, I didn’t have the nerve to stand up.) Whether it was business, counseling, friendship, or family he had the superior social skills you are referring to.

  442. I might not be the only one to notice this, but I didn’t make it through all 400 comments today. Your bar example is also an example of how that girl in the bar missed an opportunity as well. Instead of giving you the benefit of the doubt in a 30 second conversation and saying – “More of a Shirley Temple kinda girl”, she opted to get offended and shut down conversation immediately. You guys could have hit it off, but she decided to be the angry recovering alcoholic who was hanging out in a bar. Maybe she should be a warning about how not to react to people.

  443. I have a couple stories that I like to hide up my sleeve that always seem to get a laugh and spark a long conversation. One of the top ones I hold for lunch/dinner meetings is from my days in high school FFA. Ever see Napoleon Dynamite and the scene when he is drinking milk and stating what is wrong with it? Well that was me (minus the greasy red hair and giant glasses.

    I am the 1996 Oregon State Milk Tasting Champion and qualified for the National Dairy Foods contest. Yea weird huh? However, as weird as this sounds it always seems to generate a lot of talk, set the other person at ease now that opened up, and gives them something to remember about me when we meet again.

    • Oh and as far as my social weakness I think my biggest social weakness is that I feel awkward like I’m wasting time (mine or theirs) or that I come across fake disingenuous. Over the years I’ve become a heads down get the job done kind of a person and that if I need help from someone then I’m “bothering them in order to do the job I should be doing already”. I know that connecting this way is not a waste of time but I don’t know how to talk it up with someone and not feel fake or like I’m there to ask them something (which I usually am with my co-workers).

      With strangers I just don’t feel comfortable striking up a conversation. It’s just easier for me to move on with my task and get home. I don’t like putting myself out there in a one-on-one situation yet oddly enough have no issue with speaking in front of a crowd and have done so to an audience as large as 400-500 people. On the flip side I enjoy talking with people and am friendly with anyone who stops by my cube for candy or to talk as well as anyone who might ask me something at the store or a restaurant. Logically I know 99% of people of friendly and engaging like I think I am yet I can’t seem to get over the fear of thinking otherwise and actually initiate. I hate conflict and the easiest way to avoid it is to keep my head down and mouth shut.

  444. My social strengths all have to do with building and fostering relationships (empathy, conflict resolution, conversation, friendship). My validation here is that (1) bosses and friends have offered me, unprompted, appealing job opportunities, (2) ex-girlfriends often ask me out on dates again “to catch up” and “have fun,” even if we’re not getting back together, (3) I have kept in close touch with friends from middle school, high school, college, and post-college life.

    The common thread here is that I do well with people with whom I ALREADY HAVE a relationship. I have a much harder time BUILDING a relationship and getting to that level of closeness. Especially as people’s lives start to get much busier (I’m in my mid-20s), and important social settings are increasingly high pressure (bars, group dinners, presentations, etc…)

    My conversation and storytelling style is dry, and could be seen as hilariously sarcastic, but it often comes off as monotone and disinterest (validation of that statement is how I can literally see when people start losing interest in what I’m saying). This makes it much harder to engage someone, especially when there are many distractions in the area (other people, loud music, etc…).

    And even more of an issue is that, I can’t seem to hold the energy or attention of a room. Multiple times I have been in a group setting, telling a story to one person, and then where there’s that awkward moment when there’s a pause in everyone else’s conversation and you find yourself to be the only one talking. Every single time that happens, people start listening closely to what I have to say, stay interested and engaged for 10 seconds, and then everyone at the same time visually checks out. It’s terrible, and now whenever I find myself talking to an entire room, I kill or wrap up the story within seconds, no matter how much I was invested in it at first.

    I would love nothing more than to be able to be “that guy” that can tell dynamic stories in front of a group, get them to smile, and then refocus my conversation on the people I’m most interested in talking to. That type of social awareness is really hard, though, and failing at it usually seems to cause more pain than the practice would be worth.

  445. I consider myself to be fully bilingual (English/Spanish) and I’m capable to start a decent meaningful conversation wether the person Im talking to is a complete stranger or not but. However, I seem to struggle a lot to carry on when talking in English. That is because I become so aware of myself that I notice my pronunciation and my fear of being judge because of my accent blocks my ability to express fluidly. It makes me so vulnerable at times that I even feel Im not being credible or trusted towards the person Im directing myself to.

    Sometimes is just so frustrating because I know I can express myself at a certain level but the hesitation becomes so overwhelming that I just prefer not to raise my hand or express my opinions. Because of this I feel that I have missed so many opportunities to grow as an individual and even professionally. I do embrace of where I come from but then again is that fear that people might judge me of the way I talk or pronounce words. With all honestly, it even took me a while to write this couple of paragraphs to where I felt comfortable enough. I know this is a big problem because it makes me feel so insecure but not sure how to address it.

  446. Rahmit,

    My biggest fear and weakness is not actually being social and interacting with others, but being infront of a camera and engaging knowing the fact I am being watched and judged constantly. This has led me to become more and more fearful of doing what I am interested in most and overcoming what should be another step in becoming successful.

    Thank you for your time.

  447. Oops I meant Ramit, I dont know where Rahmit came from.

  448. Hi Ramit,

    My biggest social skill challenge is speaking to people in authority. For example this Christmas the company I work for arranged a employee party, so everyone was there. I only talked to the people I knew (people I work with on a daily basis) and avoided everyone else, especially the executives like the plague. I was mortified that I will make a fool of myself. I didn’t know what to say or how to make small talk. At one point I forced myself to walk up to our CEO who was watching a game of craps and asked him if he knew how it was played. He said NO and that was the end of the conversation. I didn’t have comeback ready or a follow up question/comment.

    The thing is I am working as a senior software engineer and I don’t get much of a chance to talk to people (executives) on a daily basis and my dream job is that of a Enterprise Architect. EAs have to talk to everyone in an organization from the top decision makers to end users. Having the social skills to deal with everyone is paramount to getting my dream job. I try and put myself out and interact with people but I don’t know if I am going about it the right way.

  449. My biggest weakness is reading the people I am having a conversation with to know if they are understanding what I’m saying or are interested in what I’m saying. Simplifying my message is a big part of that and I am always working on focusing those topics (such as business pitches) that I repeat often. I have virtually no ability to read people’s facial expressions or body language, so what I am now working on is methods to invite explicit participation in the conversation or if all else fails, offering people a clear opportunity to bail so I’m not trapping them in a conversation. This is something that you can’t just generate out of thin air; a mentor is crucial when you know that there are things out there that you can’t even observe on your own.

  450. Ramit,

    Excellent video, I really like the story toolbox idea. As I was watching the live tear down, I cringed because I instantly knew that was one of my biggest personal issues with social skills. Whenever people engage me, whether close friends or complete strangers, and try to get me to open up with questions, I often give brief one sentence answers, share an awkward pause with the other person, then either go back to watching sports on TV or, worst case, just walk away.

    Hilarious, I know. The worst is that usually I’m aware of doing it in the moment, but it’s like a bus hydro-planing towards a cliff, it can’t be stopped. I became even more aware recently when I decided to stop drinking alcohol (btw I used the advice from your previous testing post by just telling people “I quit drinking.” It is pure gold!)

    I’m going to work on leading conversations by planning a few ways to change the conversation and some stories for my toolbox.

    Thanks!
    Pat

  451. It is very interesting Ramit – because while reading your post and watching the video I realised that a lot of what you are saying, I have been doing them over the years – and I do have a story tool box I don’t know of. Calling it a story tool box makes it more accessible instantly, though.

    I am very confident about my communication skills. Incidentally, I was recently recorded talking about law as a career in a professional studio – and a series of videos were put up on you tube by the education company which recorded it. I watched them and realised the extent of improvements I can still make.

    one, I have decided to neutralize my accent. When I announced this on my FB page, many people criticized me for wanting to change my accent – but I think the thick Bengali accent in my speech may be distracting. What do you think?

    Second, I can improve by preparing ahead. I do well without preparation – but with preparation I can do even better. I need to get into the mindset of preparation before every speech/ live/ recorded interview rather than depending on my ability to extempore.

  452. Having finished the video, I have to admit that I have become more socially awkward. In the past, I was really comfortable in crowds and could strike up conversations without a hitch, but now I have seen myself become the person who is being told, “Pleasure to meet you. Thanks for chatting.”

    I would venture to say that my biggest problem is being afraid of not being seen as interesting or smart or worthy of further conversation. This, of course, leads to awkwardness and feeling ridiculous and “Thanks for chatting.” I don’t know what switched in my brain, but I find myself having to be more conscious on my timing, length of story, not trying to “one up” other’s stories, and really paying attention to the social cues that are occurring in the moment. I have my successful attempts and my crashes, but I think the Dream Jobs course will really helpful as it steers my personal discovery towards these fears and road blocks so I can overcome them. Thanks Ramit!

  453. Ramit, awesome video!

    I hang out at coffee shops a lot doing work and other projects. So, instead of being the random dude that’s always there and doesn’t say anything I put your video to work. I tested for 2-3 days at about 3 different locations with various Baristas. The other day I walked in to a long line so I sat down instead of waiting in line and got to work. After about 10 mins the cute Barista working there walked over with my drink (she know my drink of choice). Haha – good stuff man.

    I’m gonna keep my verbal batting practice rolling. Thanks again.

  454. My biggest weakness in social situations is “blanking” and not knowing what to say or ask to keep a conversation going. I am comfortable starting off conversations and I can usually use information I find out early in the conversation to keep it up for a little while, but eventually the conversation usually comes to a standstill. Sometimes it’s a case of a discussion coming to a natural end and I have gotten better at recognizing these situations and using the techniques described in the video to end conversations without being awkward. But in many cases after the fact I feel like I broke off the conversation too early and missed out on the opportunity to establish a deeper connection because I was too eager to avoid even the possibility of an awkward moment.

  455. The most memorable awkward social experiences always came from the Computer Science building where my friend and I spent most of our time getting our CS degrees. Her and I represented the very few white women in the building that didn’t look like men and thus were remembered very well by our classmates…
    One lovely afternoon we were sitting on the steps outside the building waiting for our class, enjoying the weather. A guy was walking by and said this to my friend, “Oh, it’s you again.” She looked at him with wonder and replied, “Yes, it’s me again.”
    That was it. He didn’t say anything back. It was like two lines of code.
    I will never forget that awkwardness…

  456. Great Video! I will have to try these techniques out and make them flow with my way of being.

    Me: Knock-Knock.
    Other Person: Who’s there?
    Me: Interrupting cow.
    Other Person: Interruptin…..
    Me: Moooo!

    This is a perfect way to explain my biggest mistake in social settings. I become excited in conversations and want to either add to the talk or ask questions that pop into my head. I feel I should control my impulse when the other person is speaking and wait. I think when that excitement comes over me, I need to take a deep breath and listen to what the other person has to say.

  457. Well, I missed the contest, but I’ll share anyway.

    A big weakness of mine is eye contact. I know it’s very important, and says a lot about one’s own confidence and as a tool to build trust with the person you’re speaking too. My issue is that I get extremely distracted while making eye contact, to the point that I can’t follow the conversation.

    Maybe they missed a spot shaving, have a scar on their cheek, or their eyes are two different colors. I get absorbed in these details and my mind wanders. I have to constantly mentally kick myself to follow the convo and prepare a follow up question or comment.

  458. My bus-ride to school in Argentina during my one year high school exchange program was dangerous by all US standards but for a crazy 16 year old kid it meant freedom . By 6:30 am the 50’s era bus was packed with 50 or so adults and teens in white labs coats. It was so full the only space was in the doorway stairs. I would let everyone get and smush their way inside. I stepped onto the first stair and grabbed the handrail. The rickety bus full of people took off with half of my body outside the bus. I reveled the morning wind whipping through my hair leaning out of the bus holding onto the railings. The streets would be full with stray dogs, drunk bums sleeping off their hangover, neighborhood kiosks opening their metal doors to sell candy, cigarettes, and alcohol. To-go coffee hadn’t reached Argentina and there weren’t any starbucks. I smelled baking bread and gazed at the snow capped Andes mountains towering over the city. The all-boys school I attended for 1 year was full of life even at 7 am. Games of soccer and basketball were in full swing before class. The place needed a renovation, every locker was busted in and the paint was chipping. Kids called me gringo, my friends were calza, negro and gordo, all bad nicknames. We skipped 2nd period to drink cocacola out of glass bottles, the sun finally peaking out from gray concrete buildings, and some warmth hitting my face, dust trails coming up from tiny French Puegots. Being out of place was normal but after a month I was in the mix. Girls, volleyball, asados, and of course mate.

  459. Ramit,

    That was an excellent video, thank you so much for posting it! The information is priceless.

    Years ago I discovered the power of “questioning” as a conversation starter, and it works like a charm. I can strike up a conversation with no effort at all with that technique. I have several social-skills problems that I am working to correct, however, many of which you hit upon in your video.

    1) Though I am adept at asking folks leading questions and getting them to talk about themselves, the conversation is almost always one-sided; I never get questioned in return. I’ve come to believe that either I am a) too good at it or b) completely uninteresting.

    2) Much like the guy in your practice scenario, I struggle in turning the conversation to other subjects. I am passionate about my work and love to talk about it, but I can see the eyes glaze over (more on that below) and I catch myself rambling, unsure how to change the conversation. I loved the way you used body language and vocal tone to switch tracks, and I will be trying it tonight.

    3). One reason I ramble is because people express curiosity about what I do (I am a paramedic). They want to hear stories and I have plenty to share! But here’s the catch: I am a TERRIBLE story teller! From your video, I am guessing that my voice is too monotone to elicit excitement or interest and folks get bored quickly, or do not see what I am so excited about. Do you have any suggestions as to how to improve my story-telling skills? I wonder if voice or public speaking classes might help?

    Thanks again, Ramit – your work is truly appreciated!

    • I just re-read my note and realized that there is a distinct problem. In one case I state that conversations are one-sided and I feel uninteresting, and in the last I state that folks want to hear my stories but that I am terrible at telling them.

      It appears that I am missing opportunities by not being engaging enough in my own stories to elicit more questions/conversation, thereby being, well, uninteresting. I’ll be watching for this in the future, and running some tests.

  460. PROBLEM – I tend to have too superficial conversations with people, which seems to prevent better relationships from developing.

    TEST – I’ve been testing different strategies, including asking more emotion-revealing questions when talking with people.

    PERSONAL EXAMPLE – For example, I recently moved to another city, but before I moved lots of people I knew were asking me about the move, and most of the questions were focused on me. However, I turned it around and asked them “how do you feel about my moving?” This simple phrasing resulted in varied responses, some awkward (strange looks of confusion), but almost all of which revealed deeper emotions that I otherwise would’ve known about (one person even began tearing up).

    GO FROM HERE – Aside from continuing to refine my emotion-revealing questions, next up on the testing chopping block are subtle body language changes and duration/timing of eye contact.

    Despite improving over the last several years, I know that my social skills still have a long way to go, and I will continue to improve them on my own, but if chosen for this opportunity, I know that I will prove a good example of going from mediocre to great (as I’ve already been able to go from poor to mediocre skills on testing alone).

  461. Hi Ramit,

    My greatest social skill challenge is the graceful exit from a conversation that I don’t want to be in. In the past, I have made pleaful eye contact at friends around me, but usually that is just a signal to them to watch the fun unfold. I have become irritated and become rude as a result of the internal monologue that was going on, making me seem like a crazy person on the other side of the conversation who thought things were going so well.

    I can decide that I’d rather not be in a conversation for any number of reasons, but somehow, the idea of cutting off a conversation simply because I want to makes me uncomfortable. I think I will hurt the other person’s feelings or be put in the awkward place of having to explain why I want to exit. I think too much.

    Anyway, having a simple script that is polite will be a great tool that helps me not waste my time in conversations that I don’t want to be in.

    You’re so helpful. :)

    Rachel

  462. Ramit! A great empiricist. I’d like to add two more points I’ve found to be supremely valuable.

    1) “If you realize you are just a smart monkey, you are off to the best possible start”
    This is crucial for self awareness, not taking yourself too seriously, focusing on the fundamentals of who you are and who they are.

    2) “Practice saying things that make people uncomfortable”
    Understanding what people’s (collective society) limits are will help you become the kind of person who is interesting, but not over the top. However, inevitably you have to push it over the top from time to time to gauge where people’s comfort levels are. Practice with people at the bar, so you can nail it in an interview.

  463. After read this, I went to my local climbing gym with the intent on speaking to one particular woman whom I was rather curious about. As the gym got more and more crowded (it was Ladies Night) and more and more women came in, I kept an eye out for my particular interest. As she rolled in, I immediately thought of all the possible things I could say to her. However, after an hour of procrastinating and just not “manning up”, I just shrugged my shoulders and accepted the fact that I really wanted to talk to her and that it standing around wasn’t going to do anything for me. So I just approached her and said “Hi, your name is , yes?”, she responded “yes” and the conversation went from there. I found out A LOT about her within a matter of 10 mins…by simply asking questions about her. We climbed together for a little bit then went our own ways about the gym (we’d already been there for awhile and were getting tired). At the end of the night I found her again, let her know it was nice to meet her and went on my way.

    Takeaway 1 – That was easy as pie! Why the heck did I wait an hour for before talking to her? Answer – I have no good reason (epiphany!). Also, in leaving the gym earlier than she (and while the night was still young) gives the impression that I had other important things to do than to stay and talk to her more (leads to curiosity)

    However before that, I talked up the Yoga Instructor for our gym and got to know more about her (again just asked questions and responded with my own input and stories). For the rest of the time we were there, I would catch her give me looks from time to time. By the end of the night back at my apartment complex, I met another rather pretty lady coming in from a night of grocery shopping and easily made small talk with her in the elevator about her evening, introduced myself and said goodnight.

    Takeaway 2 – Socializing is much easier than we all make it out to be, and making the effort to do so will always be more rewarding than punishing.

  464. my biggest weakness is that i don’t know how to keep a conversation going once it’s been started. Even with close friends I tend to end up as the listener and while it is not bad to be a good listener I wish I had more to add and knew how to do it so that a conversation would be more even unless, of course, i had a friend in need who really needed a listener at that moment.

  465. My problems all the things you refer to, but I guess one problem is not asking those questions. It’s like the thought/impulse/ realisation to ask a question kicks in 5 minutes after the conversation has finished. OK 5 mintes after I’ve bored them to death. I have just realised that my biggest problem is that I have never been part of that inside crowd, that’ “inner circle” of people at work whom the boss favors.’ I am frightened of saying or asking something they will think is stupid, so I never say it. When eventually I am bursting because I know I’ve got a contribution or need clarification, either the moment has passed, or someone else does say it, or what I say is so clumsily phrased that I’ve lost the point ad i do come across as stupid.

  466. Hey Ramit, thanks for taking the time to read these as always.

    People have told me that I am a very sociable and likable person and that I can fit into a crowd of new people, but they have no idea about the strides I have taken mentally over the years. Sometimes, I still am the goofball that people don’t always take as serious.

    In my middle school years I was full of energy, enjoyed laughing and making jokes with everyone, and was involved in a lot of school activities. On the surface I was an outgoing “social butterfly.” Here’s what they didn’t realize but I did:

    1. Small private school = comfort zone, a.k.a. very little interaction in diverse and/or larger groups
    2. Although I was constantly smiling and laughing, inside I was taking note of every reaction from my peers around me and critiquing myself (pretty hard, but that’s what teen’s do) on how I could appeal to the masses that weren’t my close friends or even acquaintances. What did I do?

    I went on to high school with 95% of the same peers (k-12 school) and decided to try the sit back approach and let things happen while I stayed quiet. So from outspoken fun guy (who was too fun for some and made fun of) to the quiet guy who didn’t want to rub anyone the wrong way.

    Fast forward and through high school and college I knew I had to find a happy medium and College allowed me to further hone in on my social skills as I was now around so many other people. What I found, and still find to be very effective now after college and in the “corporate” world is that I am great in groups of two or three or just one on one’s – I really try and listen and be genuinely interested in anything I can learn about that person. I can also use this same strategy in groups of 5-10 because there’s still the opportunity to cut off a smaller group and make it more personal.

    I haven’t had as much experience with submerging myself in large groups of strangers, so I don’t know how I would do with that and would probably still need to break it down into smaller chunks. Nonetheless, I still catch myself cracking a joke in a situation where I may not have prejudged a person to see if they would be turned off by a joke or sense of humor – I almost got kicked out of student teaching because of this type of situation in college…..that teacher was not much of a humor fan.

  467. Hey, Ramit –

    Okay, first of all, thanks for making me feel a LOT better about the social skills I do have. I’m not saying they’re perfect or anything like that – I have serious social phobia and would probably melt like the Wicked Witch of the West if you parachuted me in to something like a convention or the Oscars – but I realized, watching the video, that my tools are a lot better than I thought they were. Which is not to say that they’re great. They’re adequate. They could probably do with some help, but they don’t suck as bad as I thought they did. Maybe I just need practice (if I was brave enough to get out of the house more often and work up some confidence and

    My “toolbox story” – six months before I turned forty I got a grant from a sports equipment multinational to take a six-week bike trip across Spain. I drowned in rain, got blown off the road by hurricane-force winds, learned how to re-assemble a bike after cleaning clay-based mud off it, and had the time of my life.

  468. Hi Ramit,

    Here’s a social hack for parties at friends’ houses (NOT for sit-down dinner parties unless by special request of the host).

    Show up with delicious drink mixings* in a bag. After greeting the host, ask the most interesting looking person in the room – bonus points if they look shy or bored – to help you in the kitchen. Mix a big pitcher of something delicious and deceptively alcoholic. Then walk around the room with your new friend, one of you carrying cups, the other carrying the pitcher. Introduce yourselves to each guest, offer them a cup, and invite them to participate in your drink naming contest.

    Here’s how this hack works out for me. Within 30 minutes of arrival, I’ve established a connection with the coolest guy in the room, met and engaged nearly every guest at the party, and since they all associate me with having rescued them from playing with their phone, I’m very popular. Plus, by the time we make our second round, usually the music is a little louder, half the attendees are dancing, and everyone else is mingling and having a great time.

    As you can probably guess from this story, I’m a fun girl at a party. The problem is, I suck at some other really critical social skills.

    I’m transitioning from working as a secretary to working as a web developer, and I’m having a really tough time getting that first real job with the word “developer” or “programmer” in the title. I’ve landed several interviews, but I always find a way to blow it.

    I feel obligated to warn prospective employers that I’m a recent programming grad, so most of my programming experience has been at school and setting up websites for friends. My instructors have told me flat out that I have “imposter syndrome,” that I should be willing to tell employers that I’m a rock star coder right now. But I feel that to present myself as anything other than an enthusiastic, fast-learning beginner would be dishonest. I am aware of the silent scripts here. I just don’t know how to banish them.

    I was a rock star secretary because I spent years paying my dues and honing my craft and gaining the skills needed to protect and deflect and free senior executives from all the repetitive, time-consuming tasks that could be handled by someone else. I’m willing to pay my dues in this new field and I want to grow up to be a rock star programmer. I just keep blowing the interviews.

    Please help me Ramit! If media training would be a life-changing experience for anyone, it’s me!

    * A super easy, deceptively alcoholic drink recipe in case you want to try my party hack. Mix a large can of either Lime-Ade or Pineapple-Passion-Mango juice concentrate with 2/3 can of vodka and 2 cans of ice. No water. You can use a full can of vodka on the second round, since people won’t be able to taste the vodka any more. And use small cups! This stuff is dangerous!